BY jill terreri

The Legislature seems poised to make a job offer to County Manager Gregory Lewis, though the question of whether his reappointment will be approved remains a mystery.

Lewis declined to comment Tuesday, saying that he couldn’t talk about an offer he hasn’t received yet.

The Legislature will likely make the proposal in the form of a resolution. Whether the offer will be discussed with Lewis before it hits the Legislature floor hasn’t been decided yet, said Majority Leader Malcolm Needler, R-North Tonawanda.

If the resolution passes the 19-member Legislature, Lewis would be rehired, if he accepts the offer.

Lewis earns $95,500 per year and has requested a raise in a new contract. His current contract expires May 27.

A salary offer has not been decided upon yet, Needler said.

Lewis is in the running for other jobs, including one in Manatee County, Fla., where he is due to arrive on Sunday for two days of interviews. Lewis survived an earlier round of interviews with four other candidates in that county earlier this month.

Legislator Clyde Burmaster, R-Ransomville, said the caucus was moved to make the offer after reports surfaced that Lewis wanted to stay in Niagara County.

“I don’t know if there’s support to keep him or not,” Burmaster said.

If Lewis doesn’t want to stay, the county should move with speed to solicit other candidates, Burmaster said.

Last spring, Lewis called off talks for a new contract in Niagara without a public explanation.

The Legislature’s next meeting is Nov. 8, but Needler would not commit to whether the resolution will be introduced at that meeting.

Minority Leader Dennis Virtuoso, D-Niagara Falls, hopes Lewis will stay, and believes his five-member caucus supports the manager.

But Virtuoso was not pleased with the way the majority handled this latest promise of an overture to Lewis.

Virtuoso was part of a bipartisan committee that was negotiating with Lewis before Lewis called off the talks earlier this year.

The fact that the decision to offer Lewis a contract came out of a closed political caucus meeting “kind of makes it look political,” Virtuoso said.

“The county manager shouldn’t be indebted to either party,” he said.

Voters will decide Nov. 7 whether the county manager, whoever that person is, will work in four-year terms.

County attorneys have advised the Legislature that Lewis’ current four-year term is not legal, based on advisory opinions from the state attorney general’s office.

If the referendum fails, the manager will be appointed to two-year terms.

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