LOCKPORT – Niagara County Manager Jeffrey M. Glatz told a reporter Tuesday that the allegations that led to a paid administrative leave for the director of the county Refuse Disposal District are “none of your business.”
County legislators apparently got similar treatment in a closed session that involved members of the Refuse District board and other lawmakers.
“They wouldn’t tell us anything,” Minority Leader Dennis F. Virtuoso, D-Niagara Falls, said after the 13-minute executive session.
Richard P. Pope, director of the district since 1993, was placed on leave Nov. 1 after he was questioned with a court reporter taking a verbatim record of the session.
“The man has a right to privacy,” Glatz said. He said the leave is open-ended, but he intends to complete the probe as soon as possible.
He said that he and the county’s legal counsel are handling the matter and that there is no law enforcement involvement.
He said the goal is to determine “whether it was improprieties or bad management or a bad hair day.” But on specifics, Glatz insisted, “You’re not entitled to any information on that.”
Last week, after news of the leave leaked out, legislators said they were told information would not be shared with them because they might have to sit in judgment on Pope.
Legislator Paul B. Wojtaszek, R-North Tonawanda, said there was a possibility of an Article 75 hearing, which is a trial-like proceeding that state law says must be used if a government wants to fire an employee with civil service protection.
Glatz said Tuesday the allegations received about Pope were not anonymous and predated his clash with Pope at an Oct. 22 Refuse District board meeting over possibly closing the district’s only functioning landfill.
Glatz recommended its closing as far back as June, but Pope argued the landfill operates at a profit. Glatz noted the district as a whole does not make a profit because of the cost of monitoring its two closed landfills. The functioning landfill – known as the C&D landfill for “construction and demolition,” its sources of waste – is running out of space, but Glatz said that there is no closure plan and that one is needed.
“Somebody took that as saying I was out for Pope,” Glatz said. “This [investigation] has nothing to do with the budget.” He said he “would take high offense” at anyone who said otherwise.
The manager also denied that a landfill shutdown would be designed to help Modern Disposal, the Lewiston waste company whose various components have given about $75,000 to Niagara County Republican candidates and committees since 2000, according to state Board of Elections records. “It’s a complete fabrication and lie,” Glatz said.