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Council appoints Darch to seat vacated by Szymanski

A five-month stalemate over a vacant seat on the Lackawanna City Council came to an end Monday, as Council members appointed political newcomer Rebecca Darch to fill the 2nd Ward post previously held by Mayor Geoffrey M. Szymanski.

The Council voted, 4-0, for Darch's appointment to the seat through the end of 2012.

First Ward Councilman Abdul Noman, who in January voted in favor of Annette Iafallo for the appointment, this time backed Darch to break a Council deadlock.

"The 2nd Ward residents deserve to have a voice," Noman said after the meeting. "I'm sure the residents of the 2nd Ward will be very pleased now to have a voice on the City Council."

City Council President Henry Pirowski and 4th Ward Councilman Keith Lewis -- both newcomers to the Council in 2012 -- were firmly behind Darch's appointment.

"I know it's been a contentious issue. We've had several good candidates come forward. I believe Rebecca Darch is the best person for the position at this time," said Pirowski.

Third Ward Councilman Francis J. Kulczyk tried to introduce a compromise candidate, Thomas Burke, for consideration, but his motion was not seconded.

Kulczyk abstained from voting on Darch's appointment, and with abstentions in Lackawanna considered yes votes, the approval was unanimous.

Darch's appointment is effective immediately, and she will serve on the Council at the next scheduled meeting June 4.

Darch, 25, works as a supervisor at a Buffalo nonprofit agency and has lived in the 2nd Ward for about five years.

"The 2nd Ward needs representation, and it needs progress," she said after the meeting.

Darch planned immediately to familiarize herself with the mayor's proposed budget, and she expected to focus on ridding the 2nd Ward of abandoned buildings, creating more playground space for children and finding solutions to the ward's flood insurance problem.

Iafallo also attended the meeting, and she congratulated Darch after the vote.

When asked if she was disappointed by the proceedings, Iafallo responded: "No. It's called politics."

"I do plan on winning this primary," she added. "I wish Rebecca a lot of luck."

Iafallo, 61, works as clerk of the Lackawanna City School Board and is a veteran of Lackawanna politics, having run for the mayor's post and served multiple terms on the School Board.

Although she lost out on the appointment, Iafallo won a coveted endorsement from the 2nd Ward Democratic Committee earlier this month.

Burke, a longtime 2nd Ward committeeman, was not interested in running in the election. He said he sought the appointment as a compromise candidate.

Diane M. Kozak, a retired federal employee and former School Board member, has announced her candidacy for the 2nd Ward seat, as well. Kozak is seeking the Independence Party and Republican Party endorsements.