The Niagara County (N.Y.) Legislature voted unanimously May 21 to fire indicted Laborers’ Int’l Union of N. Am. Local 91 official Paul J. Bellreng from his seat on the board of directors of the county Industrial Development Agency. Bellreng was ousted from the unsalaried post following a caucus of the Legislature’s Democratic majority, the same group that installed him and the rest of the nine-member board in Jan. 2002.
Keeping Bellreng on the board “sends the wrong message,” said Legislature Chairman Bradley E. Erck (D). Bellreng is one of 14 Local bosses who were arrested May 17 on federal charges. Erck said he sent Bellreng a registered letter May 20 requesting his resignation, but had not received an answer.
Though Legislator Renae Kimble (D) voted for Bellreng’s firing, she said Bellreng should have had the chance to come before the IDA board to explain himself. “Brad is a dictator,” Kimble said of Erck. “We have a whole list of current legislators, former legislators who committed indiscretions who were not forced to resign.” Erck responded, “If you were in the economic development arena, I don’t think we should have the appearance of impropriety. Many members of the Legislature expressed their displeasure.”
Kimble, the Legislature’s representative on the IDA board, said Bellreng was presented to the caucus by Legislator Dennis F. Virtuoso (D). “I received 10 copies of his resume and presented them to the caucus,” Virtuoso said. “It wasn’t my personal choice.” Virtuoso made the motion to remove Bellreng.
Erck said Bellreng deserved different treatment than Youth Bureau Director Teresa D. Holland, who was allowed to stay in her job after being charged with two misdemeanors accusing her of lying on her county job application by not acknowledging a past misdemeanor conviction. “The failure to check a box is different from the charges read from the (Bellreng) indictment,” Erck said. “Maybe if there’s more than one standard, that’s part of politics.”
Bellreng, a Local 91 steward, is charged with racketeering and extortion. He is accused of threatening an asbestos removal worker in April 1997, “I’m going to take your head off tonight.” The worker’s house was bombed that night. Bellreng also allegedly threatened to kill other workers and their families, according to federal prosecutors. [Buffalo News 5/22/02]