You can say one thing about Niagara USA Chamber CEO Bobby Newman, he won't go quietly into that good night. He's still hanging around, nearly three months after announcing he would be leaving the Chamber job.
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And the Amherst resident isn't just hanging around, he's firing Chamber staff, writing Guest Views for the daily paper about how we in Niagara County should be conducting our affairs and firing off angry letters to the volunteer members of the Chamber's board of directors telling them they haven't done enough to make his job easier.
Newman presided over the merger of the Niagara Falls Chamber of Commerce and the Eastern Niagara Chamber of Commerce in February 2002. His qualifications for the job were few, but his ambition was unbounded. He set out to singlehandedly destroy the organizations he'd been hired to oversee.
He began by firing longtime Chamber employees, like Fred Caso, who were popular in the community. He let it be known that he wasn't interested in the small, mom-and-pop businesses that had long been the backbone of the organization, and the members left in droves.
The Niagara Military Affairs Council, the Main Street, Niagara Street and LaSalle business associations and the Lockport Canal Development Task Force handed in their resignations en masse.
During the 2003 county Legislature elections, he decided to inject himself into politics and used Chamber funds to back a slate of losing candidates while engaging in campaign finance irregularities that were reported in area newspapers and even drew the attention of the Niagara County District Attorney's office.
But, in Newman's mind, the destruction of the Chamber has been everyone's fault but his own. In an Oct. 4 letter to the board, he wrote:
"The Chamber is at a very dangerous crossroad. I realize first-hand the intense criticism we endured during the first two years of the merger. Much of it was fueled by the very same element we are trying to overcome. Political hacks, re-cycled bureaucrats, strong-arm labor groups and parochial thinkers all fought us. ... Unfortunately this apparently has scared away many of our supporters including board members. It has drained our resources and now put the Chamber in a difficult position."
Last week, the Chamber board announced it was bringing in former NFTA official David Greenfield to take over Newman's job. Also announced was the firing of another four Chamber employees. For his part, Newman said he would stay on "through the transition."
Some guys just can't take a hint.
|Niagara Falls Reporter||www.niagarafallsreporter.com||Nov. 9 2004|