Niagara Gazette — The Niagara Falls City Council has hired an attorney with political connections in the city to help with the finalization of a single city charter, but one council member questioned whether the move created a conflict of interests.
The council voted 4-1 to hire Robert Restaino, an active school board member and former city judge, to help the council with its push to finalize the charter over the objections of Councilwoman Kristen Grandinetti, who attempted to table the measure before voting no.
"To pay him to work on the city charter not only creates the appearance of impropriety and patronage, but it creates a real conflict of interesest," she said.
Her motion to table was the item not seconded and so was defeated.
Grandinetti said she and Councilman Andrew Touma both work for the school district, which only further complicates the relationship.
"We as the city council were elected to deal with city issues like charter reform," Grandinetti said. "School board members were not."
In addition, Grandinetti said she would have liked to have seen more time allowed for the public to review the hiring, as the council agenda was not available until Thursday morning. Agendas are normally available the Wednesday before a council meeting but the release of the meeting plan was delayed by last week's blizzard.
Grandinetti said she was not aware that Restaino had been selected, though she knew he was being considered, until she read his name in the agenda on Thursday.
"I don't believe this proposal had received ample time for public scrutiny," she said during the meeting Monday night.
Council Chairman Charles Walker began a push to organize and ratify a single charter early this year. Several versions of the charter and amendments have been used at city hall for decades.
Grandinetti said she is completely supportive of charter reform, but wants to make sure that it is carried out responsibly.