LOCKPORT – A Democratic proposal to place time limits on the Niagara County Legislature’s trademark party caucuses will be “put to bed” by the Republican majority Tuesday, Legislature Chairman William L. Ross said.
The closed-door party gatherings have been lengthening Legislature meetings for as long as anyone can remember. But the last straw came March 18, Minority Leader Dennis F. Virtuoso said, when a party caucus actually became a party.
The Niagara Falls Democrat said department heads, the public and reporters waited about two hours as the Republicans ate cake in their caucus room.
March 18 was the 48th birthday of Majority Leader Richard E. Updegrove, R-Lockport. Virtuoso accused the GOP side of wasting everyone’s time by holding a birthday party for Updegrove during the mid-meeting caucus.
“Come on, do that before the meeting. That’s just rude and ignorant,” Virtuoso said.
Updegrove denied the accusation. “We didn’t celebrate a birthday; it was work,” he said.
The Democratic proposal seeks a 30-minute time limit on caucuses, except in “special circumstances.” It says the county is running up overtime costs by making other employees wait around.
Updegrove said most, if not all, of the employees at the meetings are salaried and don’t get overtime. “Obviously, we’re cognizant of everyone’s time,” he said.
“When we were in charge,” Virtuoso said, “we caucused before the meetings.”
“We typically caucus before meetings also,” Updegrove said.
Ross said, “I would never limit the minority caucus. If they want to have an hour caucus, they can, and the same for the majority.”
Will the Democrats’ proposal be referred to committee? “I’m sure we’ll bring it to the floor and put that to bed,” responded Ross, C-Wheatfield.
Virtuoso said he also wants to ban the GOP practice of admitting patronage staffers, including the county attorney, legislature clerk and public information officer, to the caucuses.