Niagara Gazette

Local News

March 20, 2007

LEGISLATURE: Burmaster kicks out public, then relents

LOCKPORT — Lawmakers in the Niagara County Legislature’s majority caucus left members of the public disgusted and the Democrats seething on Tuesday.

The public became upset after Legislature Chairman Clyde Burmaster, R-Ransomville, asked the 30-odd spectators at Tuesday’s meeting to leave after they applauded Barker School District’s Interim Business Manager William Leardini’s public comments.

Burmaster, who allowed the public to return to their seats in the chamber after about five minutes, said the clapping went on for too long. He also admitted that his actions could have something to do with the fact that he’s “crabby” because he just came back from vacation.

Democrats became upset, among other issues, because the GOP-led majority forced Legislator Harry Apolito’s resolution on eliminating a patronage position to a vote on Tuesday, instead of allowing it to go to committee for an in-depth discussion.

Regarding the mass clearing of the Legislative chambers, Barker School Superintendent Steven LaRock asked, “What happened to democracy?”, as he waited in the rotunda outside the chambers. Other members of the public shook their heads in disbelief.

The audience was applauding Leardini’s comments against tax breaks for AES Somerset, brokered by the Niagara County Industrial Development Agency.

“Bill Leardini should have been thrown out, not the rest of the people here,” Leardini said.

Wheatfield resident Donald Hobel, who has been attending Legislature meetings since 1994, said he’s never seen the public kicked out.

“I don’t care, Mr. Burmaster, for you to treat us like a herd of cattle,” said Cambria resident Margie Swan. “We need a change people. We need a change from this majority.”

Burmaster said he is charged with maintaining order in the Legislature and he will live up to that responsibility.

On the issue of Apolito’s measure to eliminate the position of deputy treasurer, Apolito wanted the resolution to go to committee so it could be discussed with the county treasurer, David Broderick, who was not at Tuesday’s meeting.

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