The Niagara Falls Water Board fired its top four administrators Thursday and replaced them with new hires during a tense -- and at times testy -- business meeting.
Fired from their jobs were:
- Executive Director Paul J. Drof;
- Norman Allen, director of infrastructure;
- Anthony M. Hahns, director of administration and contracts;
- And John Ottaviano, general counselor.
Hired to replace Drof was Rolfe Porter, who previously served as acting commissioner of water for the City of Cleveland as well as executive engineer with the Erie County Water Authority.
James Perry, former director of human resources at the Goodyear plant in Niagara Falls, was hired to replace Hahns as director of administrative services and human resources.
The engineering firm of Clark Paterson and Lee was hired on a contract basis to handle the Water Board's infrastructure issues.
The board also hired Kendra McClain to a previously unfilled post, as director of financial services. McClain, who has a masters of business administration degree, will start in the position in mid-March.
The board appointed David Sanchez of the LoTempio Law Group in Buffalo to replace Ottaviano as general counsel. Nicholas P. Amigone III of Rupp Basse Pfalzgraf Cunningham was hired as special counsel.
All of the firings and replacements were approved by the majority of the Water Board, which consists of former Niagara County Legislator Renae Kimble, and newly appointed members Nicholas Forster and Dan O'Callaghan.
Board Chairwoman Gretchen Leffler voted no on every action.
She noted she had not previously interviewed the candidates selected to replace the ousted administrators prior to Thursday's meeting and, upon reviewing their resumes, questioned their qualifications.
"To give people contracts when they've never been vetted by the board, again, I believe it's neglecting our fiduciary responsibility," Leffler said.
Board member Ted Janese II abstained after questioning each of the new hirings.
The board also replaced Leffler as chairwoman and installed O'Callaghan as chair.
"The (board's) annual meeting is March 1, but I guess we're going to ignore that," said Leffler. She nevertheless voted with the majority on her ouster.
The directors are dissatisfied with operations and point out that about 68 percent of the water pumped at the Michael C. O'Laughlin Water Treatment Plant off Buffalo Avenue is lost in "leaky infrastructure," O'Callaghan explained after the meeting, which drew a standing-room-only crowd.
"I look forward to the many challenges of my appointment to the Niagara Falls Water Board," O'Callaghan said.
"I will strive to build a strong communication between the Water Board and city administration, along with the ratepayers of the community. There are also many future City of Niagara Falls redevelopment projects that the Water Board will need to be involved with and work with the city administration," O'Callaghan said.
He noted that he has a 40-year background as a project manager in the construction field.
The board Thursday voted unanimously to reinstall its Frozen Water Assistance Program to help offset the costs of leaky pipes for some ratepayers. It also promoted longtime employee Joseph LaGamba from chief wastewater operator to director of buildings and maintenance.