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3 business leaders named to new Audit Committee in Lockport

LOCKPORT – Mayor Anne E. McCaffrey announced her appointees to the city’s new Audit Committee on Wednesday.

The panel is meant to hire the city’s outside auditors and monitor their performance when they look into the city’s financial records, but it also has investigative power in cases of suspected fiscal fraud.

Chairman of the panel is Paul J. Mullane, president of Mullane Motors and the brother-in-law of Alderwoman Anita Mullane, D-2nd Ward. McCaffrey said she does not regard that as a violation of city ethics rules.

The policies governing the Audit Committee, adopted by the Common Council in December, barred any city employees or their immediate family members from serving on the committee.

It was to comprise at least three people who had financial expertise and no business connections with the city.

Besides Paul Mullane, the other members of the audit committee are certified public accountants: David S. Sholk, financial and general merchandise team leader at Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. in Niagara Falls, and Brian C. Ranney, secretary-treasurer of Chemical Design Co. in Lockport. All three members are city residents.

The audit panel, whose creation was strongly suggested by the State Comptroller’s Office in one of its audits of Lockport’s financial crisis, is required to meet at least twice a year, including at least one session with the outside auditing firm hired by the city.

McCaffrey said that with the appointment of the committee, “the City of Lockport will have an added level of financial security.”

Also at the meeting:

• The Council appointed CRA Infrastructure & Engineering of Buffalo to supply engineering services to the city for as much as $50,000 a year, an expense that was included in the 2015 budget.

The move represents a privatization of the city’s engineering work. The position of director of engineering has been vacant since May, when Norman D. Allen resigned to take a job with the Niagara Falls Water Board.

The Council voted to appropriate over $200,000 in the sewer fund to pay for emergency repairs to two of the four clarifier tanks at the wastewater treatment plant.

STC Construction of Springville will be paid $189,000 for the work, while CRA is to be paid $19,400 for engineering assistance and inspections. The damage to the mechanism that removes solids and sludge from sewage was discovered by city employees, said Alderman Patrick W. Schrader, D-4th Ward.

“If those two things break down, we’d be in deep doo-doo,” Schrader said.

• The Council approved a new two-year contract with the SPCA of Niagara to take stray dogs for $22,737.46 a year, an increase of $661 from last year. City Clerk Richelle J. Pasceri said the state Department of Agriculture and Markets told her that if the city doesn’t have its own kennels, it has to hire the local SPCA.

The Eastern Niagara Animal Welfare Alliance had expressed interest in the contract, but the city’s dog-control officer, Joanie Black, strongly endorsed the SPCA.

• The Council instituted a fee of $50 to use a city crew to hang a banner advertising an upcoming event over a street, and voted to charge $500 plus 75 cents a mile for use of the city’s portable stage by organizations outside Lockport.

For-profit users within the city will be charged $400, while not-for-profits inside the city limits may use the stage for free.