TOWN OF NIAGARA – The Niagara Town Board had been expected to name a replacement for former Supervisor Steven C. Richards on Wednesday.
Instead, it named Town Clerk Sylvia Virtuoso as deputy supervisor and left the top job open for a special election in November.
Virtuoso, who has been clerk for 15 years, will have the authority to run the daily business of the supervisor’s job, sign checks and complete other transactions until voters pick the replacement.
Richards resigned in late April as part of a plea deal with prosecutors to avoid trial on 23 counts related to misuse of his office. The board accepted his resignation as the first order of business at the special meeting.
Councilman Danny Sklarski, who had to step down as deputy in order to let the board’s plan work, said the board members wanted to step back and refocus on what direction to take.
“The board has been through a lot this year,” Sklarski said of the situation. “With new leadership in place – even though it’s only to the end of the year – we’ll find a new direction.”
“Sylvia brings continuity to the table and the most important thing is to maintain continuity now.”
To conduct the meeting, the board appointed Councilman Rob Clark as meeting chairman. In short order, the board voted unanimously to accept the resignations and name Virtuoso.
Clark, who is a political opponent of Richards, said it was important to put a neutral, non-voting person in the job. He said Virtuoso has expressed no interest in the job and the move “gives the public the choice.
“With everything that’s happened, it’s up to you guys,” Clark told the crowd.
Clark also mentioned that the town code required a councilman to step down in order to be appointed as temporary supervisor until the election.
Although he was rumored in the past to be interested in the position, Clark said he has no plans to run in the special election.
He said family obligations as well as time factors would prevent him from running this year.
None of the other board members would commit to making an election announcement.
None would rule themselves out of the supervisor’s race in 2015 when the election will be for a full four-year term.Virtuoso, who stepped up to offer her services to the board during its discussions on what to do about the replacement, said she considered it a great honor to be deputy and noted she would pursue a policy of full communication and transparency.
She said the town government is “not just about leadership,” but relies on “great department heads and a workforce” to run the government. “My priority is to bring certain things to fruition and prepare for a new supervisor,” she said.
She was sworn in by Town Justice John Teixeira while her husband, Guido, held the bible.
The deputy position gets a $3,500 annual stipend and Sklarski said the board would have the amount prorated to pay Virtuoso.