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Resident’s criticism draws rebuke from legislator at meeting

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 23 July 2015 at 12:00 am

ALBION – For several years, Paul Lauricella has attended Orleans County Legislature meetings and often questioned legislators when they would vote to accept federal funds for Homeland Security, money for cameras by the shoreline, boats, and other equipment.

Last month Lauricella told legislators he thought Homeland Security was unconstitutional.

Bruce Schmidt attended that meeting. He was there with the Orleans County Historical Association, which is working to preserve a former cobblestone schoolhouse on Gaines Basin Road.

Schmidt was surprised legislators didn’t refute Lauricella’s comments, offering him “the civility of silence.”

Schmidt and Lauricella were back at the Legislature’s meeting on Wednesday. Schmidt, a Gaines town justice, spoke about the Department of Homeland Security, and its formation soon after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. The department, with Congress’s approval, combined many federal organizations. Schmidt said it wasn’t formed unconstitutionally. He called Lauricella’s comments, “flippant,” and “reckless.”

Schmidt noted that his son, Scott Schmidt, left Orleans County on Sept. 11 and responded to the terrorist attacks with the Disaster Mortuary Operational Response Team. DMORT is a team of experts in the fields of victim identification and mortuary services. Schmidt spent 8 days at Ground Zero working to identify bodies.

Lauricella said the attacks, and the deaths of nearly 3,000 people, on that Sept. 11 weas “absolutely horrible.”

However, Lauricella said Homeland Security has grown far greater than its original purpose. He said children and senior citizens can’t go to the airport without being “fondled” by security personnel.

“I stand by my comments and I won’t retract it,” he said in response to Bruce Schmidt.

The Legislature on Wednesday voted to pursue another $50,000 federal grant through emergency management for “critical infrastructure.” Lauricella questioned if it was needed.

“With these types of grants it’s never enough,” he said. “How much security do we need?”

Lauricella was also critical of the Orleans Economic Development Agency on Wednesday, and asked the Legislature to “clean house” with staff and board members. Lauricella cited a state comptroller’s audit that said the agency needed more oversight with companies to make sure they were meeting employment and capital investment targets after receiving tax breaks.

The comptroller also said the EDA needed a recapture-of-benefits clause if companies left town without following through on their commitments to the community.

Lauricella said legislators need to “take a strap to them,” regarding the EDA board and staff.

Those comments prompted a rebuke from Legislator Lynne Johnson.

“I’m not going to allow you to disrespect us, these Chambers and our department heads,” Johnson told Lauricella.

Johnson also said Lauricella didn’t have his facts straight with his criticism of the EDA..

Lauricella is running for legislator against Johnson for a district that includes Yates, Ridgeway and a portion of Shelby. She has the Republican line and Lauricella has been endorsed by the Conservative Party.

She told Lauricella, who was wearing a campaign T-shirt for Gaines Town Supervisor Carol Culhane, that he needed to dress appropriately at the Legislature meetings.

That prompted Lauricella to say Johnson doesn’t dress appropriately.

Scott Schmidt, the county’s chief coroner and the DMORT member, then stood. He thanked his father for his comments. Schmidt said he was humbled to be in New York City at Ground Zero after the terrorist attacks and to work in profession when many people are grieving losses of loved ones.

Schmidt thanked his father for teaching him to be respectful.

Regarding Homeland Security, Schmidt urged the community to ask law enforcement officers, including wounded deputy James DeFilipps, where to draw the line in protecting the community.

“How much is too much for the safety of you and our county?” Schmidt said.