By Justin Sondel
Niagara Gazette —
A Niagara Falls Water Board member who put forth a resolution to ask the New York Attorney General's Office to investigate the residency of another board member didn’t show up to the meeting to vote on the measure.
Renae Kimble, a water board member and former Niagara County legislator, has launched her own investigation into the residency of Water Board Chairman Ted Janese III. Kimble hired Buffalo labor and employment attorney Robert Boreanaz to assist her and now wants Attorney General Eric Schneiderman to help with the investigation.
Janese has said his wife purchased a home in Lewiston this summer where she and their children live, but that because he still spends time at and is the only person with access to his home in Niagara Falls, he meets residency requirements under the law.
The board's by-laws state that at least three members of the five-member board must be city residents. Board members Nicholas Marchelos and Michael McNally live outside of the city.
Janese said Kimble's resolution was a thinly veiled personal attack and he was disappointed that he did not get a chance to defend his character for the public record at Thursday's meeting.
"There's no legitimate purpose (to the resolution)," Janese said. "It's just to embarrass me."
As for the resolution, Janese called the item but neither Marchelos nor McNally — the other two board members present at the meeting — elected to motion the agenda item, meaning the resolution failed to carry and Kimble would have to submit a new resolution for it to come up for a vote again.
Kimble contends that Janese was not a resident when he voted to appoint Roger Lance to a director of administrative services position with the board which carries an annual salary of $70,000. The appointment was passed by a 3-2 vote.
Tom Vitello — the other board member to vote against Lance's appointment — was also absent from the board's December meeting on Thursday night.
Kimble sent an email to Paul Drof, the executive director of the water board, Thursday afternoon saying she would not make it because she had family obligations, he said.
Kimble has claimed that Lance's appointment was "political patronage". Both Janese and Lance are committee men with the Niagara County Republicans and Kathryn Lance, Roger Lance's wife, is a Republican county legislator from Wheatfield.
Kimble also claims that Henry Wojtaszek, a long-time county Republican and ally to state Senator George Maziarz - R, Newfane, had called members of the board urging them to appoint Lance to the position.
Kimble did not return a message seeking comment late Thursday.
But Janese said Kimble's real motive to launch an investigation into his residency is that she did not get the candidate she wanted into the administrative position.
He has said "surrogates" for State Assemblyman John Ceretto, R-Lewiston, Niagara Falls City Council Chairman Sam Fruscione and Councilman Glenn Choolokian had contacted board members urging them to appoint William Angus, one of the final three candidates for the position.
All the politicians have denied any efforts to influence the hiring process.
Janese said Lance's 23 years of service in the Army — during which he was honored with a long list of service awards including a bronze star — made him the best candidate for the position.
"The guy's qualified," Janese said.
Janese received letters of support from people who had served with Lance in the Army where he rose to command hundreds of troops, both U.S. soldiers and Afghan National Army soldiers, he said.
"I think he can handle the water board," Janese said.
Lance, who was at the meeting as part of his duties in his new job, said he met Janese for the first time when he interviewed for the director of administrative services position.
"I had never met him before," Lance said. "He lives up here in the Falls and I'm a Wheatfield guy."
Lance said he saw the opening online after retiring from the Army in July and thought that he would be a good candidate for the position.
"I'm just really, really happy that Mr. Drof and the board had enough confidence in me to hire me," Lance said.
The members of the board who attended the meeting also voted unanimously to both strip Kimble of her title of vice chair of the board and to appoint Marchelos as the new vice chair.
Marchelos said that Kimble's assertions that Janese is in violation of the residency requirement are weak and the board shouldn't be asking state agencies to help them investigate the matter.
"To tell you frankly, in my own opinion, the attorney general is far too busy for issues like this," he said.
Marchelos feels that for board members to be voting on the qualifications of other board members makes a mockery of the board, he said.
"They were going after Ted (Janese) professionally," Marchelos said. "That was very wrong. Very wrong."
Marchelos said that he and the other board members who voted to strip Kimble of her position felt the vice chair of the board shouldn't be personally attacking other board members over board decisions or attacking the integrity of John Ottaviano, the board's attorney, as she did in the resolution to ask the attorney general to help investigate Janese's residency.
"For all those reasons that person shouldn't be vice chair," Marchelos said, "just based on that resolution alone."