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Council candidate's eligibility questioned; Bryan J. Bollman seeks South District seat, but records show he lives in Lovejoy

One of the three leading candidates for the vacant South District seat on the Buffalo Common Council as recently as March was registered to vote in Lovejoy and last July circulated election petitions that said he lived there.

These two circumstances raise questions about whether Bryan J. Bollman, a senior aide to Council President Richard A. Fontana -- the Lovejoy representative -- is eligible for an appointment to the post.

Bollman's voter registration record on file with the Erie County Board of Elections earlier this year indicated he lived on Gold Street in Lovejoy. His record was subsequently updated in late March.

Bollman also collected signatures on a candidate petition last year for Fontana's re-election bid, and on the documents he attested that he lived on Gold Street. On a petition dated July 11, 2011, a copy of which was obtained by The Buffalo News, Bollman listed the Gold Street address, which is not in the South District.

Under the City Charter, in order to be eligible for an appointment or election to a Council seat, a person must have been a resident in that district for at least a year prior to the appointment or election.

"He's clearly ineligible," said Fillmore Council Member David A. Franczyk. "That's as clear as a bell."

Fontana does not believe the situation is that cut-and-dried and has asked Corporation Counsel Timothy A. Ball for a legal opinion.

"A man can have many residences," but only one domicile, said Fontana, who likened the situation to people who are snowbirds and are registered to vote in one place, while they may live in two.

When reached to comment, Bollman said he is awaiting the Law Department's opinion on the matter.

Bollman, 28, did not respond directly when asked whether this is something he should have disclosed to the Council.

The South seat became vacant after Michael P. Kearns won a March 20 special election for Assembly.

After six candidates were publicly interviewed Monday by the Council, Bollman was among three leading candidates who emerged among city lawmakers.

The other two candidates with support are former Kearns aide Matthew Fisher and Anthony "A.J." Verel, a human resources consultant and former kick-boxing champion.

Earlier this month, Bollman said he has lived on Eden Street in South Buffalo for about 17 months.

Delaware Council Member Michael J. LoCurto said he believes Bollman was either being untruthful when he signed the petition or when he addressed lawmakers earlier this week.

"He's trying to have it both ways, is what it looks like," LoCurto said.

During his interview Monday, Bollman was asked by Franczyk whether he voted in the March 20 special election.

Bollman said he did not, mentioning that he knew both candidates and decided not to cast a ballot.

He did not mention that he was not registered to vote in the 145th Assembly District.

As of Monday, Fisher had the support of four Council members, including Franczyk and LoCurto.

Majority Leader Demone A. Smith said Wednesday he believes this is a case of Bollman doing his political work in one area while living in another, a situation he characterized as not totally uncommon.

Smith said he does not want to be in a position of having a person appointed to the office and coming in with bad feelings because they did not have the support of some lawmakers.

"The ugliness is starting to rear its head," Smith said of questions beginning to emerge about candidates.

Smith has said the situation is "fluid" regarding which candidates have the most support. It will take five votes from among the eight remaining Council members to fill the seat.

Fontana said Bollman, who he said owns houses on Eden and Gold streets, has been "very forthcoming from the beginning" of the process.

LoCurto questioned that assertion, since Bollman did not mention this situation to the Council during his interview.