A Hamburg woman has filed papers in State Supreme Court to remove a town councilman from office.
Elizabeth Reszka – whose husband is a leader with the town Republican committee – accuses Joseph Collins, the lone Town Board Democrat entering his fourth year as a councilman, of breaching his duties to the town to benefit his private law firm.
“It has to be brought to light,” she said. “It’s just not fair. The politicians should be held accountable for what they do.”
She also said defending lawsuits Collins has brought has cost the town $60,000 and is partially responsible for an increase in taxes this year.
“Enough is enough,” Reszka said in a news conference conducted in the lobby of Hamburg Town Hall as town employees, including the supervisor and police chief, walked nearby. “It’s not fair to the taxpayers to constantly have to pay extra taxes and everything else because he’s not following the rules.”
Collins declined to comment on the suit, but several of the claims included in it have been raised previously, and he has denied them.
Reszka accused Collins of:
• Representing clients in Town Court after being advised it would be a conflict of interest, and continuing to engage in the practice of law before the town or against the town.
• Directing an employee to post fliers in town buildings advertising his legal practice in an attempt to solicit clients.
• Giving copies of confidential correspondence to a subject of an investigation.
• Emailing town employees and telling them the town was trying to modify the terms of employment, which the lawsuit claims was inaccurate.
• Being found guilty of violating the town’s code of ethics for failing to disclose a conflict of interest.
Collins, the only Democratic councilman, is no stranger to controversy.
In November, Reszka accused him of threatening her during a Town Board meeting Oct. 8 in an attempt to pressure her husband, Peter R. Reszka, who is chairman of the town Planning Board and treasurer of the Hamburg Republican Committee.
Board members voted 2-1 last month to censure him for the second time, declaring that he violated the town’s anti-harassment policy and the “confidential nature of executive session.” The board also found him guilty in December 2010 of ethics charges and harassing an employee, and censured him. Both were party-line votes.
Reszka denied party politics have played a part in her decision to file the legal action.
“Elizabeth and other citizens have recognized a pattern of conduct by Mr. Collins that is not in the best interests of the Town of Hamburg,” said Reszka’s attorney, Steven M. Cohen.
Cohen said there are four others who support her suit, but do not want to come forward publicly for fear of retaliation. Reszka said they are not public officials but some have government jobs.
Reszka gave more than $400 to the campaign of Supervisor Steven J. Walters last year, and $345 in 2011, according to state Board of Elections records.
“Why would it be [political]? It has nothing to do with politics, it has to do with dollars and cents,” she said, referring to the town money spent on legal issues involving Collins.
Collins has asked the town to defend him. Supervisor Steven J. Walters said that determination has not yet been made. He said the town attorney will make a recommendation on the issue. In fairness to Collins, Walters said, the board should make the decision soon.