The PETROLGATE Scandal Lewiston Kept Gas Thefts by Two Cops From Public View
Last week, the Niagara Falls Reporter informed readers that two Town of Lewiston police officers were caught on surveillance cameras stealing fuel from the town gas pumps on 1445 Swann Rd.
The brazen cops used town pumps to fill their personal vehicles.
For some reason, the Lewiston Town Board elected to keep the names of the officers secret despite the fact that one was removed from his position and the other was suspended for 45 days.
The Lewiston Town Board minutes of the meeting of Oct. 28, as transcribed by Donna Garfinkel, deputy town clerk, reveal that Councilman Ernie Palmer admitted publicly that there was an investigation into police misconduct.
Palmer said: "There are agreements in place that stop the Town Board from discussing the issue. This is a NYS Police investigation, which to date has resulted in one officer being fired and specific action was taken with the other officer."
After Palmer spoke, Councilman Ron Winkley also spoke. According to the minutes: "Winkley agrees with Palmer's statement. Winkley believes the current Police Chief would be upset if comments are made by the Town Board."
It was not explained why Police Chief Chris Salada would be upset if the public learned the identity of the officers who stole gas from the people.
Salada failed to return multiple calls from this newspaper.
Palmer failed to return a call.
Sources said the two offending police officers were caught because the FBI was conducting surveillance on alleged gas theft by former Town Supervisor Steven L. Reiter.
Of the 40 or so town employees that had access to the gas pumps, only the supervisor and the two police officers were seen availing themselves of gas improperly during a three-month surveillance period.
Sources close to the case say Reiter was caught helping himself repeatedly and flagrantly.
Sources said the FBI placed a high tech video camera on a telephone pole near the Fire Department Sub Station on Swann Rd, that has a direct view of the gas pumps behind the Public Works Building on Swann.
According to sources, one of the two officers caught filling his personal vehicle's gas tank was Officer James Ullery, who joined the force in 1998. His salary is around $60,000.
It is said that, unlike Reiter, he was spotted at the town pumps infrequently, and was facing serious financial hardships at the time. He was suspended for 45 days and is back at work on the force.
We are withholding the name of the other, part-time police officer who is no longer with the force, until next week pending a check on his vehicle registration.
The surveillance, conducted over the summer of 2012, followed an audit concluded in 2011 by the NYS Comptroller's office and conducted by Amy Doores, Senior Examiner for Municipal Affairs, who found "suspicious" use of gasoline, among other alleged irregularities, by the town supervisor.
The Reporter learned that Buffalo attorney Brian Doyle, who does legal work for municipalities with police problems, was retained to represent the town in handling the matter of the offending police officers.
It is believed that Doyle's legal fees exceeded the total value of gasoline stolen by the officers.
Doyle appeared during a town hall meeting and went into executive session with the town board for about an hour.
Finally, in what might be the biggest news yet, the Comptroller's Office has sent Doores back to town hall.
She has requested an office to work out of, a move suggesting she will be there for some time.
Next week, the Reporter will reveal additional details of the investigation, as well as examining the allegation that gas was stolen in the name of ex-employees, as well as dead employees. And more on Reiter.
In other words, there is much more to come.
Officer Ullery failed to return multiple calls made to him at the police station, his home, and through messages made to friends asking him to contact this publication.
|Niagara Falls Reporter - Publisher Frank Parlato Jr.||www.niagarafallsreporter.com||
Jan 21, 2014