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Bid to name 2 to zoning unit sparks clashes

Appointments to the Zoning Board of Appeals, usually routine affairs, sparked angry words and nasty clashes among Hamburg Town Board members Monday night.

Councilman Joseph Collins prefiled a resolution that would have reappointed Shawn Connolly and James Sortisio to five-year terms. He has brought several names to the Town Board in the past year to fill vacancies on the Zoning and Planning boards, but none has gained the required three votes, and each board is down one member.

Councilwoman Amy Ziegler objected to considering the appointments in a resolution. She said the board had agreed to discuss possible appointments during a work session before putting resolutions on the agenda.

"I keep my word to my councilmen. Obviously, I have problems getting everyone else on board," she said.

"We're in a situation where we're going to have a quorum problem" on the Zoning and Planning boards, Collins said. "You're putting this town in a very bad position. These people show up [to meetings] expecting a quorum."

But Town Attorney Kenneth Farrell said if new appointments are not made by the time the terms of the two members expire Thursday, they would serve as holdovers until the end of the year.

"Therefore there would be no difficulty achieving a quorum," Ziegler said.

The exchange during the regular board meeting was calm compared with the brickbats thrown by board members in the work session before the meeting.

Ziegler told Collins she did not support previous nominees because two did not have good attendance records and one has filed legal action against the town on Collins' behalf. Supervisor Steven J. Walters also got into it, asking how much town money Collins has "wasted" on the legal action he has brought against the town.

Collins has filed several Article 78 proceedings in State Supreme Court challenging the board's actions. One case was dismissed; another is still pending.

As board members talked over each other in the work session, at one point Collins told Ziegler to "shut up." She started walking out of the meeting, chastising Collins for inappropriate behavior. He responded by relating an incident in the hall following a previous meeting in which she used an expletive to describe his wife while talking to his wife.

During the regular meeting, the sniping over process continued.

"It's a personal thing with Councilwoman Ziegler, and that's all it is," Collins said.

"What I find somewhat disconcerting is the agreement amongst councilmen that we would discuss these individuals [nominees to the Zoning and Planning boards] in a work session or in executive session, if appropriate, and I intend to keep the word that I made to this board," Ziegler said.

e-mail: bobrien@buffnews.com