Niagara Gazette

Local News

November 6, 2008

POWER COALITION: Zito settlement close

Power Coalition finalizing proposal to end lawsuit

The Niagara Power Coalition is finalizing a settlement deal that could end a $37.5 million lawsuit filed by its former executive director, Mark Zito.

Members of the coalition, which represents seven local municipalities and school districts, entered into executive session during its meeting Thursday to discuss the lawsuit Zito filed in August 2007, which claims he was not properly reimbursed for his work in negotiating a settlement with the New York Power Authority in support of the relicensing of the Niagara Power Project.

As a result of the settlement, the power coalition’s entities will receive $9 million annually for the next 50 years to use for projects along the Niagara River Greenway, cash for capital projects and cheap hydropower.

Zito’s attorney, Steven Cohen of the Buffalo-based firm Lorenzo & Cohen, told the Niagara Gazette he has been in settlement negotiations for the past eight months with the firm Nixon Peabody, which was hired to defend the coalition as a whole. He said both parties have agreed terms of any settlement will be kept confidential. While he didn’t attend Thursday’s meeting, he believes a proposal from the coalition is reaching final approval.

“That’s my understanding, but nothing has been set in stone yet,” Cohen said. “We have discussed rough parameters, but I haven’t seen a final proposal.”

Cohen later added, “It will be very much in the taxpayers’ best interest if they’re able to settle because going to trial would present the Niagara Power Coalition and the seven entities with great exposure.”

The coalition consists of Niagara County, City of Niagara Falls, the towns of Niagara and Lewiston and the Niagara Falls, Lewiston-Porter and Niagara-Wheatfield school districts. Each entity has a chosen representative sitting on the coalition and any agreement must also receive support from the individual boards.

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