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The James Daye dilemma

   Some of his colleagues consider McKinley High's James L. Daye one of the very best basketball and football coaches in the Buffalo School District.

   And some of his colleagues have serious questions about Daye's conduct, including the belief held by some that he was responsible for the dismissal of volunteer girls basketball coach Michelle Stiles.

   There is also an allegation that he had a sexual relationship with a student at a South Carolina school, where he coached in 1991.

   Daye has been suspended with pay since March. He has been in a self-imposed cone of silence since the allegations about Stiles' removal were first reported in The Buffalo News in January.

   On Friday, Daye broke his silence in a long interview with two News reporters. He talked about his life, his love of coaching and addressed many of the allegations surrounding him and Stiles. He refused to talk about the South Carolina allegations.

   Daye insists he's getting a raw deal from the Buffalo School Board and Superintendent James Williams. He said he has never been formally told why he was placed on suspension. He said he wants to work for his salary - $63,000 a year, plus coaching stipends - and he says his players need him.

   What do you think Buffalo Schools officials should do about Daye - reinstate him, keep him under suspension or fire him?

   It's a decision that School Board members will have to make eventually.

   - Dan Herbeck and Peter Simon

How much privacy are public officials entitled to?

      It's a juicy story, no doubt.  A well-known state assemblyman confesses to having an extramarital affair.  Meanwhile, a state panel is investigating whether he violated ethics rules.  And local blogs are abuzz with e-mails that may come from the assemblyman and his lover.  The assemblyman is locked in a heated re-election campaign and allegations of dirty politics are all part of the mix.

     How well is The Buffalo News handling the Sam Hoyt story about his alleged affairs with Legislature staff members?  Are we giving it about enough coverage?  Is it the right kind of coverage? Should it even be the subject of news stories at all?

     Read News Editor Margaret Sullivan's column in the Viewpoints section for a discussion of the issues surrounding media coverage of the private lives of politicians -- especially their sex lives -- and let us know what you think.

Paying a high price for disco fever

   I found out about the new ticket policy for the World's Largest Disco just like everyone else did, when I got a letter from event organizers outlining the new pricing plan.

   For purposes of full disclosure, it should be noted that I'm a huge disco fan. I've gone at least seven times, starting when I was a student at the University at Buffalo.

   My closet is filled with a garish plaid suit, an ugly salmon sport jacket, red polyester pants and an unfortunate white, leather belt.

   I think the disco is one of the great events in Buffalo, and my friends and I look forward to it every year.

   So I probably had the same reaction as a lot of people when I got the note about the new policy. Unlike previous years, where tickets started at a lower price and rose as you got closer to the day of the event, tickets now will start at a high price and go down the longer you wait to buy them.

   Organizers say it's the only way to raise more money for charity -- all proceeds go to Camp Good Days and Special Times -- since they can't sell more than the 7,000 tickets they now offer to the public.

   The disco sells out earlier and earlier every year, so in a sense it's a case of limited supply versus surging demand. If you want to make sure you have a ticket to the event, you'll pay a premium -- $50 per ticket instead of $35 -- for that privilege.

   But a number of disco fans I interviewed say they feel the new pricing plan is unfair to the very people who have loyally bought tickets all these years.

   It will be interesting to see whether people agree to pay the full $50 price, when tickets go on pre-sale today, or if they're going to wait on the chance there will be some left at the lower prices.

   What do you think of the new pricing plan? Are you planning to pay $50 per ticket? Is the
disco, and the good cause it supports, worth that price? Will you take a chance and wait until
they hit $45, $40 or $35 per ticket?

   -- Stephen T. Watson

Jenn is fine with coach's tough critique

   Jenn Stuczynski's coach, Rich Suhr, has been criticized for a no-holds-barred critique of her performance shortly after making a silver-medal winning jump at the Olympics. The comments were televised by NBC.

   But Mark Stuczynski, Jenn's father, said she asked for the critique, and doesn't want sugar-coated answers. He said she was disappointed to learn people had thought Suhr was too critical of her.

   Do you think Suhr was over the line? Also --  and more importantly -- how do you feel about Jenn Stuczynski's silver medal finish?

  -- Mark Sommer

Hoyt affair may be politics at its worst

   This is ugly stuff.

   A married politician romantically linked to not one, but two, young women is bad enough.

   But add to the mix allegations that the women were interns, that there are two vengeful rivals in a primary battle, some tawdry e-mails and the power of the Internet and -- kaboom!  -- we have something truly hideous.

   On Thursday, Assemblyman Sam Hoyt's camp fought back against the rumors about his affairs that have been posted on a local political website.

   Jeremy Toth, an attorney and close confidant to Hoyt, accused Hoyt's challenger, Barbra Kavanaugh, and her powerful backers of orchestrating the release of the embarrassing e-mails on Joseph J. Illuzzi's website.

   Kavanaugh has adamantly denied any involvement and denounced Illuzzi's tactics, but she also won't ask him to take down a free ad for her campaign that he posted on his website. She says that he did not have her permission to post the ad in the first place.

   In the meantime, the allegations against Hoyt have been taken up by an Assembly ethics panel aiming to determine whether he violated any rules.

   Records obtained by The Buffalo News seem to show that Hoyt is in the clear -- at least legally. In May 2004, the State Legislature enacted a policy forbidding lawmakers from fraternizing with interns.

   Records show that the women with whom Hoyt is alleged to have been involved had completed their internships well before the 2004 rule went into effect. One of the women interned from January 2003 until May of the same year. The other was a student assistant from 1999 until 2001.

   But, of course, that may all be moot in three weeks, after voters cast their ballots in the
September primary.

  -- Maki Becker   

Boondoggle at the BMHA

The problem with problems like leaky roofs is that, the longer they continue, the more problems they beget.
Bad roofs lead to water damage in ceilings and walls, expensive to repair even when it doesn't contribute to mold or pests. Gaping holes let heated air out and vermin in.

Some residents of Buffalo's public housing projects -- many of them elderly or disabled -- are living in these  conditions now.  Some are afraid to speak up, for fear of retribution by the property managers or others,  but almost anyone would agree that three years is too long to live with rain coming in your ceilings.

Not only does this indicate bad property management by the Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority, it also is a waste of tax dollars. Any property owner knows that repairs never get smaller when they are delayed.

A new system for managing Buffalo's public housing is intended to decentralize  the process for maintaining the  developments, and the seven-member board of BMHA commissioners will for the first time tour all 27
of the agency's properties later this month.

It could be eye-opening. People living there also hope it will lead to action.

Hoyt revelations come at a critical time

   Assemblyman Sam Hoyt is being accused of having affairs with two interns.

   Hoyt has all but admitted that he had cheated on his wife. He told The Buffalo News he had "broken my wedding vows" and he released a statement saying he and his wife had experienced a "difficult time" in their marriage several years ago.

   But he says he did nothing illegal or against State Assembly rules. The State Legislature has a strict policy against lawmakers fraternizing with interns -- a rule put into place in 2004 after a series of scandals involving politicians and interns.

   Now, a state ethics panel has taken up the issue and will decide whether Hoyt's indiscretions warrant censure.

   Even if Hoyt is exonerated -- records obtained by the News indicate the women with whom Hoyt was involved in weren't interns -- the eight-term assemblyman has a major political problem on his hands.

   With a primary just weeks away, how will Western New Yorkers react to the personal indiscretions of the assemblyman.

   Will they care? Should they care?

   Will they still vote for him or vote for his challenger, Barbra Kavanaugh? Or will they simply sit out the election?

  -- Maki Becker

HSBC's computer mess

It's been a tough week so far for the technical folks at HSBC Bank USA.
     The Delaware-based bank, formerly Buffalo-based Marine Midland Bank and still the largest in Western New York, suffered a major computer failure that prevented customers from getting their money.
     On Monday, customers reported that the online banking system was down, with no way to access accounts over the Internet. That access was later restored, but the balances were still not being updated Tuesday evening.
     Meanwhile, branch customers were finding that the bank staff didn't know how much money they had in their accounts. So while small withdrawals and transactions seemed to be going through, anything over $500 was being held up or denied until the bank could straighten the situation out.
     The bank said it's fixed the problem, but still isn't sure what caused it. It plans to spend the next several weeks finding out.

--Jonathan D. Epstein

Lawyer calls for criminal charges in child's drowning

The parents of a 12-year-old Bronx girl presumed drowned last week in the Niagara River have hired a lawyer who is pressing for criminal and civil cases against the operators of an illegal summer camp who were supposed to be supervising her.

    Gus Michael Farinella told The Buffalo News on Tuesday that he wants to hold the camp operators accountable for the death of Magdalena Lubowska, who last Wednesday slipped into the lower river from a rock at the edge of Whirlpool State Park.

   "I want these people arrested. I want to find Magdalena's body, and I want witnesses," said Farinella, a New York City lawyer.

   State Parks police said Timothy Hedges was supervising 23 youngsters alone on a trail in the park when he allowed some of the hikers to wander up to 500 feet off the marked trail. Magdalena fell into the river from a slippery rock, disappearing downstream in a strong current. She has not been seen since.

   Around Christmas, Hedges and his mother, Eva, opened a camp in their home at 722 Fourth St.; the venture mostly has served Polish immigrants from the New York City area. Niagara Falls city officials said they didn't have proper permits to operate such a camp and have criticized supervision standards of children sent to stay with the Hedges.

   Farinella vowed to hold the Hedgeses' "feet to the fire." He said he will pursue a civil case and also said he wants criminal charges filed. At the very least, he said Timothy Hedges should face 23 counts of child endangerment, operating without a proper guide or trespassing -- and possibly criminally negligent homicide.

  -- Nancy A. Fischer

Has the Square gone over the edge?

   Thursday at the Square is a Western New York institution, now as much a part of summers in Buffalo as Chiavetta's chicken, Old Man River hot dogs and fried dough.

   The free outdoor concerts in Lafayette Square are a weekly excuse to meet your friends, schoolmates or co-workers for some cold beer and good music and warm weather.

   The people watching isn't bad, either. I should know; I've been going since I was a University at Buffalo student in the mid-1990s.

   But I, and other veteran concertgoers and observers, have noticed that the crowd at and around the square is changing. It's younger, it seems to be made up of fewer professionals and it's drawing more people who aren't going for the music.

   Buffalo and Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority police say serious crimes are rare at the square and at the Metro Rail stations and on the cars. But a melee that occurred on a subway car last Thursday - and was recorded and posted on YouTube - may make some people think twice about coming downtown for the square.

   So, what do you think of the concerts? Do you agree that the crowds are changing? What do you think of all the young people who hang out along Main Street?

   Should Buffalo Place bring back more oldies bands, or move the start time back to 5 p.m. from its current 6 p.m. start time, or provide more security?

   Is alcohol too much a part of the concerts these days? And is all of this making you reconsider going downtown for the concerts?

  --- Stephen T. Watson

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