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Ogdensburg mayor calls for city manager’s resignation

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OGDENSBURG — Mayor William D. Nelson called for the resignation of City Manager Arthur J. Sciorra in a statement released Thursday evening after personally reviewing documents subpoenaed as part of an investigation into a family living rent-free for three years in city-owned property at 819 Knox St.

“As I talk to city residents this fall, they tell me over and over how Mr. Sciorra has lost their trust and confidence because of the ongoing issue at 819 Knox Street,” Mr. Nelson said in the news release.

Mr. Sciorra said he has no intention of resigning.

“I have no reason to resign,” he said. “Even if there were mistakes made regarding that one property in the housing program, they weren’t done maliciously and they weren’t done intentionally.”

The Knox Street property persuaded Mr. Nelson to withdraw his support for the city manager.

“After I reviewed all the documentation, I thought that I needed to take action,” he said Thursday night. “The city manager knew about this two years ago and failed to inform us, and that was disheartening to me.”

Mr. Sciorra maintains that though he knew of the property, he was not the one who allowed tenants to live there without paying rent.

“This is a diversion from the real question, which is, ‘Who told these people that they can live there?’” Mr. Sciorra said. “The tenants told me it was Phil Cosmo.” Mr. Cosmo is city comptroller.

Mr. Sciorra also questioned the mayor’s motives for calling for his resignation.

“I have four people on the council who tell me that Bill is simply doing this to throw me under the bus to try to get re-elected,” Mr. Sciorra said. “I think it’s obvious by his haste in trying to divert the public’s attention away from him that he has some motive other than waiting for the report from Andy Silver.”

City Attorney Andrew W. Silver is investigating the Knox Street incident and will give his final report to the City Council.

Until recently, Mr. Nelson advocated allowing the council’s investigation process to move forward before reaching any conclusions about who is at fault. He said as much on Monday when asked whether Mr. Sciorra would be terminated.

“I hadn’t reviewed the documents as of last week,” Mr. Nelson said. “I reviewed the documents, and this is what I found.”

Mr. Sciorra said a call for his resignation is purely rooted in political posturing.

“This is all about elections,” he said. “The council met on Monday night and reaffirmed that they thought Andy Silver was going to do a great job, and Bill Nelson said that he trusted Andy’s integrity. What is the rush if it is not for the election?”

Mr. Nelson said the mayoral campaign, in which he will face off against Ogdensburg businessman Jack F. McGrath, had nothing to do with his statement.

“I’ve talked to hundreds of people over the last two months, and the community at large is disenchanted and have lost their confidence and trust in Art’s ability to lead the city,” he said.

Mr. Nelson will move forward despite Mr. Sciorra’s refusal to resign.

“That’s his choice, but I am suggesting that he should consider resignation,” said Mr. Nelson. “I am going to have a discussion with my fellow city councilors about termination.”

To remove Mr. Sciorra from office, a majority of City Council members must affirm a preliminary resolution to do so, under the city charter. That resolution is given to the city manager, who within five days of receipt may file a written request for a public hearing in front of the council. After the public hearing, the council can pass a final resolution for removal, which can be effective immediately.

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