(Mayor Michael Tucker
Former Lockport Mayor Michael Tucker's sudden resignation Feb. 21 sent shockwaves across the community and even stunned some of his closest friends.
First elected in 2004, Tucker, 58, was the longest serving mayor in Lockport's history and had just marked the anniversary of the second year of his unprecedented third term when he announced he was moving on because opportunities in the private sector promised to pay him possibly three times the $43,800 salary he was making as mayor.
After a conversation with his wife, Kathy, Tucker said he made the decision to move on.
His resignation was effective immediately, and Common Council President Anne E. McCaffrey became mayor when City Clerk Richelle Pasceri stamped Tucker's resignation letter as officially received the afternoon of the 22nd.
"I want to go into the private sector," Tucker told the Lockport Union-Sun & Journal. "When an opportunity knocks, you have to seize it."
Now, nearly three months later, Tucker apparently has not secured any high-paying private sector job. He has set up a rudimentary website named M. W. Tucker and Associates. There are no associates listed on his website. His contact information lists his home address and under testimonials there is only one, from architect Clinton Brown.
Brown wrote, "Thank you for your guidance and leadership in helping our client focus on priorities and move forward with their important project."
According to information made available to the Niagara Falls Reporter this week, the real motivation behind Tucker's sudden departure may have more to do with sexual harassment allegations than job opportunities.
At the time of his resignation, Tucker was facing a mini-scandal involving the use of his city-issued credit card to help pay for a golf tournament fundraiser put on by one of the his department heads, Melissa Junke, head of the city's Youth and Recreation Department and, in fact, a cousin of Tucker's. While more than $9,000 in taxpayer money had been spent on the tournament, only around $1,500 was raised for the Youth and Recreation Department.
A full day of events had been planned around the fundraiser, including a dinner at the Lock 34 Bar & Grille, a restaurant owned by Junke's brother, Brian Junke.
Council members were shocked. They hadn't been consulted about the event, they said, and certainly knew nothing about Junke's use of the mayor's credit card.
Still, the scandal seemed to be blowing over when Tucker announced his resignation.
"The credit card thing is not a resign-able offense," Tucker said, inventing a new word. "It's only nine grand. The investigation is going on. In three or four weeks, there will be a finding. People will know. I know what happened there."
Meantime, almost three months passed and the public does not yet know what really happened.
Numerous sources told the Reporter that text and/or email messages of a sexual nature sent by Tucker to Junke were at the heart of Tucker's decision to step down.
Sources said Tucker explicitly instructed Junke how to dress when coming to his office, left suggestive messages about illicit activity, and generally conducted himself in a less than professional level in his communications with her.
On May 1, Junke filed a notice of claim against the city, announcing her intent to sue the municipality based on her name being released by officials in connection with the golf tournament fundraiser scandal.
City Attorney John J. Ottaviano responded, saying he wasn't aware of any facts or basis to support the claim that Junke's rights were violated.
"Of course any time it involves an employee of the municipality my preference is not to discuss it in public. With that said, the truth is an absolute defense to a defamation action and there's nothing (City Treasurer) Mike White said that wasn't true, or not already made public by other means," Ottaviano said referring to White's statements about the tournament and Junke. "The public had a legitimate concern and the employee's actions were reasonably related to matters warranting public exposure, such as the use of public funds."
Sources placed in city and county government, however, said that this is only half the story.
They allege that a deal was struck between Junke, Tucker, and other city officials wherein Junke's name would not be released in connection with the golf expenditures, Tucker would step down as mayor, and, as a result, certain allegedly salacious communications Tucker made to Junke would be withheld by her.
The release of Junke's name, sources claim, violated this tenuous agreement.
So is any of this true?
In researching this story, sources literally came out of the woodwork to tell tales of Tucker's philandering.
What emerged from this seemed to be more about the alleged abuse of the mayor's office than a prurient, adulterous saga.
One woman said she had an affair with Tucker, even visiting his house while trying to secure a position with the city she had recently lost.
She told our correspondent that he would pull up to her place of employment in his city-owned vehicle for the purpose of arranging a rendezvous.
Tucker promised that he would reinstate her position, she said.
After discovering the affair, her husband left her, she said, and she says she sought psychiatric help and moved out of Lockport.
She apparently was so guilt-ridden that she confessed to a gathering of more than 40 people how Tucker had manipulated her in her pursuit of employment.
Among those she told was Shirley Nicholas of Lockport.
"I think what he did was disgusting," Nicholas said.
Asked the nature of what the young woman told her that Tucker did during their multiple trysts, Nicholas said, "I'm 77 years old and I don't discuss these kinds of things with a man. She was scared. He had such a hold over her, it was terrible. It was almost like torture. Nobody in their right mind would enjoy what he did to her. She felt she had to do it. She was all but forced into it."
Another alleged indiscretion was with a woman who worked in City Hall. Sources at City Hall commented about how open Tucker and the woman were about their affair.
Yet another woman, a well known figure involved in presenting information about the mayor to the community, was seen by city employees coming and going in and out of the mayor's office, long after City Hall was closed, sources told the Reporter.
She would leave the mayor's office late at night, followed a few minutes later by Tucker, a police officer who observed it repeatedly, told the Reporter.
"When I first observed the pattern I asked the other officers why she was always leaving so late, since City Hall was closed for hours. They said to me, 'What are you stupid? Don't you know?'"
There were numerous other tales of Tucker's involvement with other women, named and unnamed, married and single, who did not work for the city, or had little direct connection to his office, but who knew they were having an affair with the mayor of Lockport.
All of this, if true, speaks to character and comportment, and to the level of dignity he gave to the office of mayor of the City of Lockport.
Consider one Richard Burke, a gay Lockport man who advertises for sex partners on Craigslist.
His ad includes pictures of himself with full frontal nudity, descriptions of his sexual predilections in lurid detail, and the types of men he is seeking to meet.
One person, according to Burke, who responded to his ad, was then-Mayor Michael Tucker.
"He replied to my ad and the email that came up said 'Mike Tucker.' So I emailed him my phone number," Burke told the Reporter. "He texted me about 9 p.m.; I know Mike Tucker so I asked him if it was the mayor or his son. He said the older one. The phone number that came up was (the same phone number on Tucker's MW Tucker and Associates website, 716-628-0316). I was afraid he would ask me for my address. I was afraid he would ask me out. I thought if he was married, it was pretty unethical."
The texts purportedly between the two men were provided to us by Burke, who says they are authentic.
The initial text showed Tucker's curiosity about Burke's lifestyle.
"What i said was that i`m not really into that Rich but I`m fine with the fact that you are, To each his own i occasionaly look around craigslist to see if i know anyone," Tucker wrote.
"I know a lot people that are curious and look around on here," Burke replied.
"o i c."
"Is this the Mike Tucker that i know?"
"Yes the older one," the mayor replied, making sure Burke knew it wasn't his son, Michael Tucker Jr. "Do ads on Craigslist really work and have you ever met anyone?"
"I never knew you were gay," Tucker wrote.
"That`s because i don`t look or act it."
"That`s fine with me I don`t care."
"Any straight guys ever message you?" Tucker asked.
"Really how often?"
"All the time."
Tucker's curiosity about homosexual practices might not mean anything in and of itself, but, for the mayor to troll around the internet responding to sex ads of either gender and identifying himself as the mayor, as mentioned above, speaks volumes about the respect Tucker had for the office.
Repeated calls and texts by the Reporter to two of Tucker's telephone numbers went unreturned over several days. An email also went unanswered. Finally we contacted one of his political allies and asked him to contact Tucker and contact us for this story. As of press time, Tucker has not returned any of our messages for a request for comment.