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New filings in reapportionment lawsuit; City of Buffalo flip-flops on open meeting status

The City of Buffalo amended its response to a lawsuit over the council redistricting process and whether meetings fell under open meetings laws.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — There have been hundreds of pages of paperwork filed in the last four business days by the city of Buffalo and the grassroots organization Our City Action Buffalo in the lawsuit regarding the reapportionment maps.

The case surrounds the redistricting process and whether open meeting laws were followed by the city. 

Our City Action Buffalo maintains they weren't and the petitioners in the lawsuit say they weren't allowed to be part of the process. 

"They're concerned about staying within their council-matic district and keeping their incumbent position," petitioner Lucy Velez said. "Laws should reflect the people and not to the incumbents who want to keep the job."

Attorneys for the petitioners say that the sticking point in the lawsuit is whether the Citizen Commission that oversaw the redistricting process were subject to open meeting laws in New York State. 

In a court filling on December 2, the City of Buffalo agreed with the petition that Our City Action Buffalo filed in October that the commission meetings fell under open meetings law. Additionally, the city states in the court filing that they met those requirements. 

In a filing on December 7, the city amended their answer to the petition and denied that the allegation that the commission meetings would have fallen under the states meetings law. 

"There has just been a series of errors in this process," attorney Samantha White said. "The amended answer today is just another example of that. 

White believes that the city reversed its stance after they realized the statute of limitations could still impact a decision in the case. 

"They were comfortable admitting that the open meetings law applied when they thought that the statute of limitations had run when we discovered, for lack of a better phrase, undisclosed meetings that began the statute of limitations, and that made them backpedal," White said. 

2 On Your Side reached out to the city, as well as the law firm representing the city, for comment. A city spokesperson cited the pending litigation and declined to comment. 

State Supreme Court judge Timothy Walker is presiding over the case. 

As for what's next, petitions for city council candidates will likely be distributed sometime in February for the 2023 election. If the redistricting case isn't resolved by then, those council elections could be impacted. 


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