LOCKPORT – Niagara County Refuse Disposal District Director Richard P. Pope, who was placed on administrative leave Nov. 1 because of alleged violations of county policies, resigned Wednesday.
County Manager Jeffrey M. Glatz said Pope came to his office and handed him a letter of resignation.
Since Pope was accused of violating policies on personal use of county vehicles and on residency within the county, there had been behind-the-scenes communications between Pope’s attorney and counsel for the county, aimed at resolving the situation without the County Legislature having to hold a triallike civil service hearing aimed at firing him.
Glatz denied that Pope’s resignation was part of such a negotiated settlement. “I wasn’t expecting it at all,” Glatz said.
Glatz did not supply a copy of Pope’s letter. “He saw us heading in a different direction, with closure,” Glatz said. “What my focus is, is an intention to settle this and move forward.”
Pope, who earned $67,681 a year, had been director of the district since 1993. He could not be reached Wednesday night.
Although county environmental coordinator Dawn M. Timm has been in charge of the district’s day-to-day operations since Pope went on leave, Legislator John Syracuse, chairman of the Refuse District board, said he thinks the directorship should not be filled, at least for the time being.
“I would like to see the position held in abeyance until we get some recommendations from the county manager,” said Syracuse, R-Newfane. “Is this a service we really need to provide? Does it make money?”
Glatz and Pope had a public confrontation at a Refuse District board meeting Oct. 22 over the future of the district’s only active landfill.
The construction and demolition landfill off Route 93 in Lockport is running out of room, although how long it can last is a topic of dispute. Pope insisted that landfill was operating at a profit, but Glatz emphasized that the district as a whole was not because it had to impose property taxes to balance its budget.
As far back as June, Glatz recommended the shutdown of the landfill. The district also is responsible for monitoring two closed landfills, one in Lockport and one in Wheatfield.
Syracuse said Timm has issued memos suggesting cost-cutting measures for the district.
“Dawn Timm has been doing a great job so far. That’s what I expect from department heads,” Syracuse said.
The 2013 county budget eliminated one vacant job at the district immediately, with two filled positions slated to be cut as of July 1.
Glatz, who had promised a public report on the charges against Pope, said Tuesday there probably won’t be one, although he said he might brief legislators behind closed doors.
He hinted that the residency charge might not have gone anywhere, noting that Pope is registered to vote in the City of Lockport. County employees are required to live within Niagara County unless they have a Legislature waiver.
He said he wouldn’t discuss the vehicle use charge. The county has a policy generally barring private use of county vehicles. Glatz said he may suggest revisions based on the Pope case.