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Niagara Falls City Council Chairman Voccio Defends Party’s Right to Caucus

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By: Nicholas D. D’Angelo

A story published by the Niagara Gazette on February 5th, 2020, prompted City Council Chairman Chris Voccio to respond.

The story reported that Voccio, along with fellow Republican lawmakers Kenny Tompkins and newly-elected John Spanbaur, were “huddling in the back room of a Third Street cafe, out of the sight and hearing of the public, to engage in discussion of city business.”

Voccio disagreed that he was sequestered with fellow Republicans discussing city business.

“That’s not the case,” he said. “[We] hold …meetings… in very busy coffee shops and cafes, across the city, where we’re accessible to the public. People come up and greet us, and we’re happy to have the interaction.”

Former Niagara Falls City Council Chairman Andrew Touma said he had similar meetings with members of his own party, without the general public being invited, when Democrats controlled the city council.

Touma told the Gazette that, “there were times we did (meet in caucus). We only met about a dozen times (in two years) and that was mainly around budget time or when there were topics of particular importance.”

“They’re allowed to meet,” said Touma.

Voccio denied his meetings were held behind closed doors.

“We held one of our meetings in the meeting room at Power City Eatery simply because I had my monthly coffee event in that room that very morning,” said Voccio.

“Councilmen Tompkins and Spanbauer were at that coffee event, so when it ended the three of us continued discussions in that place. Nothing secret. Nothing sinister.”

Council Chairman Voccio was formerly the publisher of the Gazette, the newspaper that ran the story he objected to, before he retired and ran for council.

“Look, I know how hard good journalism is to do, and I’m sympathetic to journalists,” Voccio said. “I’ve had a 30-year career in the newspaper business and I know the pressure they’re under, and they’re not compensated highly enough. But objectivity is important.”

The main takeaway is that Republicans, like the Democrats, can meet to caucus [a meeting of supporters or members of a specific political party, where the general public is not invited].

What is good for the goose, the Democrats, who are in fact led by my uncle, Andrew Touma, is good for the gander, the Republicans.

I don’t find anything sinister here providing they were not making decisions on city business (I.e. three men in a room), which Voccio says they were not.

I believe him.

Readers responses are welcome.


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