Q: How Does A Citizen Bring Matters Before the Niagara County Legislature? A: With Difficulty!

BY PAUL WOLF, ESQ.

The Sound of Silence

As a concerned citizen I often bring issues to the attention of elected officials through emails and articles in Artvoice, regarding open government, ethics and campaign finance reform.

Maybe it just me but I don’t typically get much of a response to the emails I send to elected officials. Not even a form response of thank you for contacting my office regarding your concerns.

Having Your Concerns Heard

After being ignored, sometimes I have my email or article placed on the meeting agenda of the Erie County Legislature, Buffalo Common Council or the Amherst Town Board. The Clerk of the Erie County Legislature and the Buffalo City Clerk are very accommodating in placing items submitted by the public on their meeting agendas. Amherst Supervisor Barry Weinstein and Amherst Town Board members are also very accommodating about placing on their meeting agenda communications from citizens.

Communications from citizens may be discussed or referred to a committee but usually such items are simply received and filed. At least I and other concerned citizens can have their information viewed by elected officials and made part of the meeting record.

Are Citizen Communications Welcome in Niagara County?

Recently I forwarded an article I wrote containing suggestions for ethics reform in Niagara County to the following leaders of the legislature: Chairman Wm. Keith McNall, Vice Chairman Clyde Burmaster, Majority Leader Randy Bradt, and Minority Leader Dennis Virtuoso. In my email I asked that my article be placed on the next meeting agenda of the Niagara County Legislature. I additionally asked if there was some other step or procedure I needed to take to have my article placed on a meeting agenda.

After two weeks of not receiving a response to my email I called Mary Jo Tamburlin, the Clerk of the Legislature, and left a message with a staff person. My message explained that I wanted to find out how a citizen could submit an item on the Niagara County Legislature’s meeting agenda.

Niagara County Legislature Chairman Wm. Keith McNall to citizens: “Don’t call us, we’ll call you!”
Niagara County Legislature Chairman Wm. Keith McNall to citizens: “Don’t call us, we’ll call you!”

After a week of not receiving a return call, I sent a second email to the leaders of the Niagara County Legislature and I contacted Mary Jo Tamburlin again by telephone. When Ms. Tamburlin answered the phone, I explained how I was trying, as a concerned citizen, to have an item placed on a future meeting agenda. Ms. Tamburlin stated to me that the Chairman of the Legislature decides what items get placed on the meeting agenda. I informed Ms. Tamburlin that I contacted Chairman McNall twice by email and I have yet to receive a response. Ms. Tamburlin stated that the Chairman received my email as he mentioned it to her. Ms. Tamburlin asked what issue I was interested in putting on the meeting agenda and I explained that I recently wrote an article for Artvoice about ideas for ethics reforms that could be implemented in Niagara County. Ms. Tamburlin explained to me that that Niagara County has an ethics policy that they follow and there is an Ethics Board I could contact. I explained that I simply wanted to have my article filed as a concerned citizen, which I have been able to do easily in other places.

Ms. Tamburlin mentioned that Niagara is a conservative county. I am not sure what that means as far as allowing citizens to have items put on the County’s meeting agenda. Is the concept of citizens communicating with elected officials considered to be radical or something? In looking at past Niagara County Legislature agendas there does not appear to be any communications from citizens. As mentioned previously, communications from citizens are frequently on the meeting agendas for Erie County Legislature, Buffalo City Council and the Town of Amherst.

Ms. Tamburlin assured me that she would let Chairman McNall know that I called. Well it has been a week since Ms. Tamburlin and I spoke and I still have not heard anything from Chair McNall. Look at the persistence and time that a citizen must put into a simple request to file an item for a County Legislature meeting. Over four weeks, I sent two emails for which no response was provided, left one telephone message which was not returned, had a conversation by telephone where I was advised that my request would be discussed and still have not received a response.

I continue to be amazed at how unresponsive elected officials are to citizen communications.

  • Erin Kinney

    You don’t. Chairman McNall covers everything up. I know of two people that called him, told him about illegal things going on in Niagara County and he did nothing about it. He wouldn’t even take their phone number for a return call

  • Erin Kinney

    The main problem is Nemi and Peter Lopes (HR). The employees voice their concerns, inform them about racism issues and they cover them up. Almost every single black person at social services ends up getting fired. They just walked another one out from Niagara Falls DSS a couple weeks ago. McNall, Nemi, and Lopes were all informed of the racism and the comments made by Social Workers about theeir fellow workers doing racist things against DSS clients and co-workers. They buried it.

  • Erin Kinney

    I can’t help but wonder if the Nazi items found at Legislator Ross’ house point at a widespread problem. Is Niagara County secretly run by Nazis?

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  • Erin Kinney

    You should also look at Mcnall’s friend Pamela Gatto. She runs Niagara County DSS. Her daughter, Bianca Gatto, bypassed everyone on the Civil Service list, skipped other people that should have got the job before her. Bianca Gatto then took the CPS civil service test, didn’t score well but was given the job over other applicants.

    Oh, Pam’s brother in law was also given a job as a director of social services- Anthony Gatto. Pam’s sister-in-law was also given a job as a social services worker at Niagara County DSS. Her name in Christine Gatto.

    Pamela also promoted her best friend,Roberta Mitravich, as a principle social services worker. Roberta was appointed to the position prior to taking the test, scored very low on the test, should not have be eligible for appointment, but Pamela Gatto kept her in the position because nobody contested her breaking civil service law.

    It doesn’t stop there. Mcnall’s friend Anthony Restaino is the Comish of DSS. Mcnall let him hire his brother as a social service worker, bypassing a lot of people on the civil service list. The guy had cancer, got free health insurance, only worked for a short while before going on sick leave-still getting free health insurance. Mcnall also let Restaino hire his Restaino’s son as a child support DSS attorney. He works about 5 hours a week, makes $40,000 and gets free health insurance.

    DSS is where Mcnall hides all his friends and their family members. He even appointed the DA, that just stepped down due to sexual harassment, as a child support attorney before the DA was made the DA. Take a good look at the child support attorney staff, there’s a whole bunch of them…all making $40,000 per year with free health care and they are all friends of Mcnall. They all work 5 hours per week. They claim they work a lot more but that isnt true, it’s a lie.

    Chris Niziol runs the child support unit. He is friends with Mcnall too. Chris owns a non-profit called Diamonds in the Ruff in Niagara County. He is permitted to post donation signs around county buildings and collects money from employees everyday. Restaino banned all employees from posting benefit posters or collecting money, except for Diamonds in the Ruff. He was running the business off his county computer for years. Christopher Niziol was caught stealing from Diamonds in the Ruff, tens of thousands of dollars went missing. He has quite the gambling issue. He stepped down from the board of directors, from a non-profit he created, after they found out about this. Christopher Niziol also collects the money for the Sunshine Optimists group in Niagara County and the Police & Judges club in Niagara County. I’m sure those groups don’t know that Christopher Niziol stole the money.

    About 20% of the DSS workforce consists of people Mcnall, Restaino, and Gatto all broke civil service law to appoint even though they scored low on tests