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Control Board Appoints Director, Giambra Silent

By Joyce Kryszak

Buffalo, NY – Erie County Executive Joel Giambra did not bring up his controversial proposal to delay police pay raises during Wednesday's meeting of the Buffalo Fiscal Stability Authority. But there were questions about what might have been discussed during a lengthy closed door meeting that followed the open session.

The Control Board met for the second time Wednesday and very quickly got down to business. First on the agenda was appointment of the Authority's Executive Director. Upon being named, former Pataki budget official Dorothy Johnson entered the stage of the downtown auditorium to applause.

Her smiles turned to serious concentration as the board made its way through a list of daunting presentations on the city's fiscal crisis. Chairman Tom Baker says there will be no quick fix.

"We do have a very difficult situation here. There's a gap that's going to be, I believe, somewhere in the $25 million range," said Baker. "It appears they're going to have to cut six, seven, maybe eight million dollars more -- and that's for this fiscal year.

"I think the city knows what it has to do. How they're going to go about it, and how that's going to impact services, is obviously going to be an issue that is difficult to deal with."

One particularly tough issue not dealt with, as promised by the County Executive, was delaying $8 million of police back pay. Instead, Giambra skirted the issue during open session and left silently after an hour-long executive session. Baker repeatedly denied that it was discussed privately behind the closed doors. But he did acknowledge that the issue of contracts will eventually be addressed.

"What we will look at is all of the contracts, the police happen to be one of the contracts," said Baker. "We will look at them all in their entirety."

That's no surprise to Police Union President Bob Meegan. He says its going to probably be a long drawn out issue for the public and the police.

"As it stands right now, we're preparing for legal actions in the future because we know there are some issues we're going to be facing in the future, and we want the answers" said Meegan. "That's why we've asked our legal staff to delve into those issues right now. Because we know these questions, that we also have, are going to be asked."

Another immediate question is exactly how much money the city will need to borrow in a revenue anticipation bond just to stay afloat past September. The board authorized the city comptroller to apply for one initially in the amount of $98 million.