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Confusion over police commissioners

Confusion -- or possibly a misunderstanding -- has arisen over membership of the civilian Board of Commissioners that oversees the Lewiston Police Department, a joint town-village force.

Mayor Terry C. Collesano told members of the Village Board on Tuesday that he understood town officials had tried to appoint all three members of the Board of Commissioners without consulting the village, in apparent violation of a contract between the town government and the village -- which is a part of the town.

Village trustees asked their attorney, Edward Jesella, to contact town officials in an effort to clarify the issue.

The town and the village at one time had separate police departments, Collesano said, but they were merged into a single department under a contract that permitted the village mayor to appoint one member of the commission, the town supervisor to appoint one member, and the town and village boards together to appoint the third member.

Collesano said his appointee to the board is Alfred Soluri, who attended Tuesday evening's meeting of the five-member Village Board. The mayor said the village and town's joint appointee to the board is F. Robert S'dao.

But the mayor said Tuesday he was notified that town officials have appointed Henry J. Sloma and Town Councilmen Ronald W. Winkley and Ernest C. Palmer to fill the three seats.

Sloma is acting chairman of the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority and chairman of the Niagara County Industrial Development Agency. Winkley is a former Lewiston police chief, and Palmer is a former Niagara Falls police superintendent.

With all three seats filled, Soluri said, "I don't know whether or not I am a police commissioner."

Collesano assured Soluri that he still is a commissioner, as the personal appointee of the mayor. Collesano added, however, that he was uncertain of S'dao's status.

Village Board members said the uncertainty left Police Chief Christopher P. Salada in the difficult position of not knowing who the police commissioners are. Nevertheless, the trustees said, police patrols throughout the town and village would continue unaffected.

Jesella, who helped to negotiate the contract that consolidated the former village and town police departments, said there is nothing in the contract that allows a town official to remove a village police commissioner.

Town Supervisor Steven L. Reiter could not be reached to comment Tuesday night.