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Naples Resigns, Accuses Giambra of Political Interference

By Mark Scott

Buffalo, NY – There is yet another political casualty from the Erie County budget crisis. County Comptroller Nancy Naples is calling it quits. Naples met with reporters at her Rath Building office late Wednesday afternoon to announce her resignation.

The surprise announcement came at a news conference during which Naples said she would make a major announcement relating to a county control board. She made the case for the imposition of a state control board to oversee county finances. But then Naples stunned reporters, and even some of her staff, by announcing that she would resign effective June 30th. She said she hopes her resignation will pressure state officials to act on a control board.

"I think it will make the leaders in Albany, who are responsible for determining this, take a long hard look and say we'd better do something," Naples said.

State Assembly Majority Leader Paul Tokasz said Naples' resignation only furthers his concerns about the county's fiscal health. He said the issue of a control board is under discussion but that no decision has been made at this point.

Naples spent much of her news conference railing against County Executive Joel Giambra for engaging in political interference. She said the latest example of that was his announcement Tuesday that the county should delay borrowing money to close this year's budget gap. But Naples said there was more.

"He (Giambra) asked that my staff come to an agreement on the 2005 deficit estimate, before the state comptroller issued his report," Naples claimed. "The number I was asked to agree to was $80 million. He wanted me to lower my budget estimate of $113 million in order to strengthen his position that the state comptroller's analysis is incorrect."

In return, according to Naples, Giambra said he would restore some positions in her office that were cut in March. Naples said she refused to comply. She said the independence of her office is in jeopardy.

Giambra was not available for comment Thursday night when WBFO News contacted his office. But he did tell the Buffalo News that there is still no need for a control board, calling Naples' resignation a part of what he calls a "very well-orchestrated political hit." Giambra said he would restore jobs in the comptroller's office once money arrives to pay for them from the sale of short-term notes.

Naples' deputy Tom Mazur will run the comptroller's office until the County Legislature appoints her successor.

The County Legislature must appoint someone who holds the same party affiliation as Naples. She's a Republican. Since Naples had already announced that she would not seek re-election, the Republican Party has selected Orchard Park businessman John Canavan as its candidate for comptroller. But whether the Democratic-controlled Legislature would agree to appoint him is an open question.