TOWN OF NIAGARA – Two appointed officials will be leaving their jobs – one by resignation, the other removed by Town Supervisor Steven C. Richards.
Near the end of a spirited Town Board meeting Tuesday in which board members were criticizing one another, calling for executive sessions, and arguing over resolutions, Richards went over to Councilman Charles F. Teixeira on the dais and asked to meet with him privately.
When Teixeira refused, Richards said he would fire him as police commissioner, a position that he appoints.
Moments before, Teixeira admonished Richards and Town Attorney Michael B. Risman for failing to call for an executive session at the May 16 work session to discuss an investigation into members of Niagara Active Hose Volunteer Fire Company who are collecting workers’ compensation from the town.
Teixeira said that because the matter was discussed in open session, the names and compensation details of the individuals were later reported in local newspapers. As a result, the investigation into the town’s high compensation costs was exposed and became ineffective, he said.
Teixeira said the matter became “a waste of money” and “could have been handled better in executive session.” He said that he was disappointed in Richards and Risman for not discussing the matter behind closed doors. He later explained that because the discussion involved personnel matters and medical issues, it should have been done privately.
During the meeting, Richards said he was firing Teixeira from the $3,500-a-year appointment because the Police Department was $126,000 over budget for 2012. Teixeira said that as commissioner, he sees the budget but is not responsible for its formulation or content.
The original investigation involved the cost of compensation that the town pays every year, estimated at $330,000. The town has to pay the actual medical bills because it cannot find insurance coverage. Most municipalities pay significantly lower premiums for coverage, it was noted.
The other departure was that of Susan E. Kotlarz, parks director and recreation head, who said she submitted her resignation Tuesday. Richards said he has not received the resignation.
Kotlarz, who has been in charge of the parks for 10 years and of recreation for about a year, would not comment on her resignation except to say that it was for “personal reasons.”
However, during the public comment section early in the meeting, a resident chastised board members for bickering with one another other and causing Kotlarz to leave.
“When is this going to stop?” Catherine Hall of Pretoria Street, asked the board. “Do you know how we look?”
She said the board was getting rid of Kotlarz because the councilmen “want somebody else in that job.” She said many residents, including herself, go to the recreation center “because of her.” She called Kotlarz “the heart and soul” of the department.
Richards agreed with the woman about the discord and said that it was becoming “like the old days” with “pettiness and accusations.”
Councilman Robert A. Clark, who is frequently at odds with Richards, said that he was “not happy with the way any of us acted” and that the board needed to have “a big sit-down” to resolve differences.