Niagara Gazette

Local News

December 10, 2012

Election chief still on hold

(Continued)

Niagara Gazette — “The reasons cited at that time in writing (by Smith) were explicity political and not related to (Soos’) job performance,” Wojtaszek said. “She plain and simple lied to the committee. ... She violated the public trust; covered up ... at the behest of her (party) chairman.”

If Smith acted improperly, she wasn’t the only one, Virtuoso and legislator Jason Zona, D-Niagara Falls, countered.

Whenever a board employee is dismissed, both election commissioners have to sign off on the action, they said, and GOP Election Commissioner Mary Ann Casamento signed off on Soos’ termination alongside Smith — but she hasn’t been questioned.

“Cover up! That’s powerful words!” Virtuoso bellowed at Wojtaszek. “If you chastise one, you chastise both. There’s no way around it.”

Majority Leader Rick Updegrove, R-Lockport, also criticized Smith, citing a media report in which Soos claimed Smith had told him she was firing him at Forster’s direction.

Smith taking direction from Forster, versus the county attorney or the human resources director, “smells bad. I don’t like it,” Updegrove asserted. With Soos’ termination, the county has to pay his unemployment and also pay his replacement, he added.

Wojtaszek’s and Updegrove’s complaints about Smith are disingenuous “bull,”, Zona charged. Every legislator knows that the board clerks, as well as the commissioners, are “at will” hires sponsored by their political parties, he said.

Wojtaszek moving to untable Smith’s appointment theoretically opened the door to an up-or-down approving vote by the full legislature — but the vote didn’t occur, because none of the 15 lawmakers offered a motion.

Not that it matters, since Smith can be given the job for another two years with or without GOP lawmakers’ support.

By state election law, county legislatures pretty much rubber-stamp the major political parties’ picks for county election commissioners; they don’t have any authority to appoint commissioners who are not supported by their party.

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