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November 13, 2009

TOWN OF LOCKPORT: New county GOP chair expected to resign town post

TOWN OF LOCKPORT — The town board is holding a special meeting this morning to appoint a new town prosecutor.

Current prosecutor Michael Norris is expected to resign the post in light of his election to the chairmanship of the Niagara County Republican Committee on Thursday evening.

Supervisor Marc Smith said it’s important for the town to have a prosecutor in place by next Tuesday, when the town’s zoning case against local business owner David Mongielo is back in town court.

Smith said Norris is being replaced because “it isn’t really appropriate for him to remain the town prosecutor if he’s the (county GOP) chairman. Even the appearance of a conflict would not be acceptable, so ... we’re trying to get our ducks in a row.”

The board will be asked to pick from a field of three local attorneys, one recommended by a board member, another by Norris and another by Town Attorney Daniel E. Seaman.

Smith declined to name any of the candidates in advance of the board’s decision. Personally, he said, he’s looking for the one who’s both a town resident and a “young person.”

Norris, 33, is both.

He’s also an attorney for the City of Lockport, where Mayor Michael Tucker said Thursday he’s not persuaded Norris’ departure from city service should be automatic.

As the third deputy corporation counsel, Norris represents the city in traffic court, dangerous dog and tax foreclosure proceedings.

City attorneys are mayoral appointees, and Tucker said he is not making any judgments about potential conflicts between city work and county GOP work until he has conferred with lead city attorney John Ottaviano.

“I agree, appearances are everything at times, but Mike has done a really good job for us. ... Maybe we just need to switch (deputy counselors’) duties around. If it’s a conflict all the way around, he’ll have to step aside. We’ll see,” Tucker said. “Before I yank (the appointment) away, I want to make sure there are sound legal reasons why I should do so.”

Tucker, a member of the county GOP committee, voted in favor of Norris’ election to the chairman’s post. The vote was unanimous, and there were no other candidates for the job, he said.

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