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Ogdensburg council will seek attorney to deal with city manager situation

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OGDENSBURG — The Ogdensburg City Council chose not to take up a resolution to terminate City Manager Arthur J. Sciorra on Tuesday night.

“The consensus of the council has been to seek outside counsel on this matter,” Mayor William D. Nelson said. “We were prepared to act on the accompanying resolutions tonight.”

Mr. Nelson submitted the resolution as an action item for the council to consider, but it failed to take action because City Attorney Andrew W. Silver recused himself from representing the city in the matter of Mr. Sciorra’s termination.

“I can’t be both the investigator and the prosecutor,” Mr. Silver said. “In my opinion, you need an outside lawyer.”

The council asked Mr. Silver for a list of potential attorneys and will begin interviewing them at an undetermined date.

“(Mr. Silver) has recused himself,” Mr. Nelson said. “The council will take further actions regarding this.”

Complicating the matter, Mr. Nelson revealed that Mr. Silver’s report had been leaked to the press.

The Times received photographs of the first 14 pages of Mr. Silver’s report Monday evening.

The council may open an investigation into who leaked the report.

“We will seek to discover who released the documents,” Mr. Nelson said. “We’ve had issues with items being leaked previously.”

The news of the leaked report caused the councilors to eye each other with suspicion.

“This whole thing disgusts me,” Councilor Michael B. Powers said. “The integrity that laxes among those at this table is disturbing, I don’t see how we can recover from this.”

Some councilors called for the report to become public record, but the body took no action to make it so at the meeting.

“I would like to make a motion that the entire report goes public,” Councilor Daniel E. Skamperle said. “I don’t think there’s anything wrong with releasing the report to the public.”

In the past, Mr. Nelson has called for the process to be held in the open, but he did not support Mr. Skamperle’s call to make the report public after the city attorney recommended against it.

“My advice is before any decisions are made on the report, that the publication be reviewed by outside counsel,” Mr. Silver said.

The Ogdensburg Journal submitted a Freedom of Information Law request for the entire report Oct. 28.

The council chose to go into a closed session to confer with its attorney about the leaked report and how it could proceed with Mr. Sciorra’s termination.

“To maintain the integrity of this investigation, I feel like we should break into executive session,” Mr. Powers said.

Those in attendance at the meeting expressed frustration with the delay.

“This is nothing but a mess,” said John Oakes, who appeared before the council. “Things are being swept under the rug by the city manager.”

The crowd also was concerned about how much it costs the city to hire attorneys to conduct the investigations.

“Apparently we have so much money we can afford to waste it on outside counsel,” Gary Edwards said.

Mr. Nelson’s opponent in this year’s mayoral election, Jack F. McGrath, said the entire meeting seemed like a political stunt.

“I think that this continues to be a circus for political gain dragged out through Election Day,” Mr. McGrath said. “There are ways to go about changing the city manager, but (Mr. Nelson’s) main objective is to get re-elected.”

Mr. Nelson said he remains committed to bringing the matter to a swift resolution.

“We are going to address this as soon as possible and get an outside attorney,” he said. “I don’t think it will take long.”

By the end of the meeting, the public audibly vented its frustrations at the council.

“Who can we trust up there?” one man asked. “Not a damned one of you!”

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