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Water Board Vice Chairman Challenges Residency of Chairman, Says Recent Appointment of Lawmaker’s Husband Might Not Stand

By Tony Farina

Does Ted Janese lll (above) live in Niagara Falls or Lewiston?
Roger Lance (left) witnesses his wife, Kathryn being sworn in as a Niagara County legislator.
GOP powerhouses Henry Wojtaszek (above) and State Sen. George Maziarz (below) deny they had anything to do with Lance’s appointment.

The Niagara Falls Water Board last week passed a 6 percent rate hike and appointed the husband of a Republican legislator from Wheatfield to a three-year position as director of administrative services at $70,000 a year.

But the vice chairman of the board is raising questions about the legitimacy of all actions taken by the five-member board because she alleges the chairman is in violation of the panel’s residency law rendering all the board’s recent actions invalid.

Vice Chairman Renae Kimble, in a letter to the board’s legal counsel, said that Board Chairman Ted Janese’s appointment by Sen. Mark Grisanti “was determinant upon his being, and remaining, a resident of the City of Niagara Falls while serving. The bylaws clearly state that such residency must be in place and it also clearly notes that if the initial Niagara Falls residency fails or lapses then immediate resignation from the board must follow.”

Kimble, a former Niagara County legislator, claims Janese no longer resides on Point Avenue in Niagara Falls but has lived at 1145 Jarrett Drive in Lewiston for possibly the last three months. The Lewiston address is the same one listed for Janese on the September, 2012, roster of the Niagara County GOP Executive Committee. According to the Water Board bylaws, at least three of the five members “shall be a resident of the City of Niagara Falls” and any member who does not meet that requirement “shall forfeit his/her membership upon termination of residency in the City of Niagara Falls.”

In her letter to Board Counsel John Ottaviano, a copy of which has been obtained by the Reporter, she states that because of Janese’s residency violation “all votes and board actions that occurred during the time of his violation are invalid, specifically referring to the Roger Lance appointment that was passed by a 3 – 2 vote, with her and Tom Vitello voting against the appointment.

Vitello lives in Niagara Falls and thus would be the third city resident, along with Janese, if Janese’s residency is valid.

Kimble asks that Ottaviano move quickly to expedite the process which she contends would result in her being named chairman. Janese did not return a call on Sunday asking for his comment on the matter. Ottaviano said on Monday that Janese has not advised the board of any change of residency but that as a result of Kimble’s letter, he would immediately send a letter to Janese seeking proof of his current residence.

Kimble also claims in the letter to Ottaviano that during the rate hike meeting during which Lance was given the appointment, Janese insisted to a resident complaining about the rate increase that he is a city resident, a statement that Kimble says is not true and should be the subject of further investigation because Janese is an attorney and officer of the court.

Also at the meeting last Wednesday, the board voted 3 -2 to continue its investigation into who leaked photos to the Niagara Falls Reporter of illegally stored frack water at the treatment plant, with Janese saying it’s important to find out who blew the whistle on the illegal storage and who damaged the locks.

Water Department employee Glenn Choolokian, also a City Council member, had his recent $4,000 pay raise rescinded at the same meeting by the same 3-2 vote that approved Lance’s $70,000 job.

Choolokian has said that the frack water investigation is about who took the pictures and gave them to the Reporter so the board can discipline that person. They are using the excuse that someone from the outside took the pictures to try and find out who blew them in when they were doing something illegal, Choolokian said.

Sources close to the board claim that State Sen. George Maziarz and prominent GOP attorney Henry Wojtaszek were pushing hard behind the scenes for the Lance appointment but both deny the allegation. Maziarz said he supported fellow Republican Kathryn Lance in her legislative race in Wheatfield but said Monday he hadn’t spoken to anyone on the Water Board about the appointment of her husband to the $70,000 job.

Wojtaszek, when questioned by the Reporter, denied making any calls to Water Board members in support of the appointment of Lance. Janese has a part-time job as an attorney with the GOP-controlled Niagara County Attorney’s Office.

Niagara County Democratic Chairman Nick Forster called maneuvering at the Water Board to win the politically-connected Lance the appointment “politics at its worst,” and signals the board is not protecting the interests of the community. Forster also charged it is another example of Sen. Maziarz’s political clout, saying “George has his hands in everything.”

The Niagara Falls City Council passed an anti-fracking resolution last March but Gov. Cuomo has delayed a decision on the state’s position on new fracking regulations until next year following a review of shale gas drilling by national experts.

The controversy over the health and environmental concerns about hydraulic fracturing continues with business interests pushing hard and spending plenty on Cuomo and other elected leaders for a positive decision in New York. Sen. Maziarz told the Reporter on Monday he is neither in favor or opposed to fracking at this point but is waiting for the state DEC to reach a decision. As he prepares to begin representing Niagara Falls for the first time in his long Senate career, his interest in the City Water Board appears to be growing but he denies any direct involvement in the Lance appointment.



Niagara Falls Reporter www.niagarafallsreporter.com

Nov 27 , 2012