Niagara Gazette

December 3, 2012

Water Board residency debate floats along

By Mark Scheer
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — Niagara Falls Water Board Chairman Ted Janese III said Monday an attorney representing the water board has found no merit in claims suggesting he has violated the terms of the board's residency policy. 

Fellow water board member Renae Kimble, who initiated the effort to have Janese's residency examined, said any such ruling would be "news to her" as she's still gathering information as part of what she believes is still an ongoing investigation by water board attorney John Ottaviano. 

"I have not submitted all of my proof yet," Kimble said Monday. "(Ottaviano) just has one side of the story." 

In a statement issued Monday, Janese, citing what he said was an opinion rendered by Ottaviano, said he continues to meet all residency requirements of the board and that he exhibited no "conflict of interest in supporting the recent hiring" of the board's new director of administrative service Roger Lance. 

"The concluding facts are that I meet the residency requirements for board members and there was no conflict of interest in supporting a highly qualified candidate for the Director of Administrative Services position," Janese said. 

Ottaviano could not be reached for comment Monday. 

Ottaviano was asked last month to investigate Janese's residency by Kimble who suggested the board chairman had moved out of a home in the Falls and into a new house in Lewiston, thus violating the terms of his appointment. Kimble had argued that, as a result of the residency violation, Janese should be removed as chair, allowing her, as vice chair, to assume the board's top position. She also called for the invalidation of all water board decisions made since Janese's alleged move to Lewiston, including the hiring last month of Lance, the husband of Wheatfield Republican county lawmaker Kathryn Lance. 

Janese has consistently maintained that while he and his wife recently purchased a home in Lewiston, he has not changed his primary address from its current location in the Falls. He also has insisted that the hiring of Lance — who like Janese is a committee member for the Niagara County Republican Party — was in no way politically motivated. 

City lawmakers last week voted to approve a resolution "demanding" that Janese step down due to the questions surrounding his residency. Several officials have also questioned Janese's involvement in the vote to hire Lance, arguing that, as a practicing attorney who has a part-time job working for the county, he should have abstained from the vote involving the spouse of a sitting county legislator. 

Janese has argued that those involved in the questioning of his residency were really attempting to have him removed from the board so they could install their own, preferred candidate for the administrative services director post. 

"The individual hired by a majority of the board was one of 40 applicants and one of the top three candidates recommended after a thorough interview process conducted by the Niagara Falls Water Board's personnel committee, of which Ms. Kimble is a member," Janese said. "Unfortunately, Ms. Kimble and the Niagara Falls City Council decided to react the way they did after I refused to support hiring a handpicked political crony of Assemblymember John Ceretto and council members (Sam) Fruscione and (Glenn) Choolokian."