Niagara Gazette

Local News

March 19, 2013

GOP motion on ex-election chief draws threats from Dems

LOCKPORT —

Top Democrats promised the county legislature's majority caucus payback for its Tuesday passage of a resolution condemning the employment of Nancy Smith as a deputy election commissioner.

The resolution, put up by Republican majority caucus leaders Richard Updegrove and Paul Wojtaszek, puts the legislature on the record opposing "continued employment of (Smith) by the Niagara County Board of Elections, and the consequent qualification for taxpayer-funded lifetime health insurance benefits she will receive."

The resolution was OK'd on an 11-3, straight caucus-line vote, with only Democrats casting the no votes.

Smith, the former Democratic election commissioner, recently traded jobs with her old deputy, Lora Allen, and announced she'll retire from the county's employ on April 15, her 55th birthday.

As a 19-year employee, she'll be able to retire and have the county pay 75 percent of her health insurance tab for the rest of her life, per a county human resources policy that's been in effect since 1998. Retirees with 20 or more years of service get 100 percent county-funded health benefits for life.

Wojtaszek has been objecting to Smith's appointment as a deputy commissioner since it occurred in mid-February. He charges that Smith, whose term of office ended this past December, does not "deserve" retirement benefits, after her politically inspired firing of a board clerk last fall, former North Tonawanda Mayor Lawrence Soos, nearly got the county sued. Further, Wojtaszek charged, Smith "lied" to a legislative subcommittee about the incident.

Allen, who was Smith's deputy for more than 10 years, was appointed to the top elections post in mid-February, on the Niagara County Democratic committee's recommendation. State election law lets the major parties decide who they want as commissioners; the county legislature appoints effectively only rubber-stamps the parties' picks when it appoints commissioners.

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