Niagara Falls Reporter
Home | Archive/Search
July 29 - Aug 06, 2014

Where Have all the Republicans Gone?

By Mike Hudson

July 29, 2014

Lewiston Supervisor Steven L. Reiter’s popularity crashed and burned. Lockport Mayor Michael Tucker was sworn in, but never finished his third term.


They’re dropping like flies and, if the current trend continues, it won’t be long before they make the endangered species list. Republicans holding elective office in Niagara County are growing fewer and fewer, and hardly a week goes by without news of some new resignation, investigation or scandal.

GOP stalwarts such as Lockport Mayor Michael Tucker, Lewiston Supervisor Steve Reiter, Lewiston Councilman Ernie Palmer and Town of Niagara Supervisor Steve Richards have all left office in recent months, and the party’s leader, State Sen. George Maziarz, has announced he will not be seeking re-election this coming November.

Niagara County, a longtime Republican bastion that went for the Tea Party- backed Republican Carl Paladino in his unsuccessful run against Andrew Cuomo in the 2010 race for New York governor, has become a hunting ground for the U.S. Justice Department, with FBI agents uncovering all manner of wrongdoing on the part of a number of GOP officials.

Just last week, Lewiston Town Councilman Michael J. Marra became the latest Republican to resign suddenly, telling fellow council members on Wednesday that Friday would mark the end of his 10-year career as a public official.

Like other Republican officials before him, Marra said he was quitting to spend more time with his family and pursue private sector opportunities.

“I think for myself and make my own decisions,” he told the Reporter. “There’s no back story. I am not under investigation or anything. I've never even been contacted. There’s nothing else to it.”

Still, Marra is the third Lewiston Republican to leave office since last year, when Town Supervisor Steve Reiter lost in a primary election to Palmer who was later defeated by Democrat Dennis Brochey.

Just a year ago, Marra was widely seen as being groomed to take County Legislative Chairman William Ross' seat when the octogenarian retired.

Town of Niagara Supervisor Steve Richards resigned after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor charge. Lewiston Councilman Mike Marra, the latest (as of press time) to resign.

A lot changed in a year.

The Niagara Falls Reporter ran a series of investigative stories that revealed the following:
Reiter, along with at least two town police officers, were caught on video stealing gasoline meant for use in town vehicles.

Then there was Bridgewater, a so-called senior luxury housing project that looked suspiciously like a low income project where Marra and Palmer voted to support fast-tracked approvals of the plan despite the fact that the property was owned by Reiter's mother. Palmer and Marra both claimed they did not know that Reiter was a silent partner in the development deal until the Reporter revealed it.

** Then there was the alleged missing/failed asphalt at Joe Davis Park. The Reiter, Marra, Palmer team, astonishingly, never once checked the contractor's work.
** Dubious billings from surveyors at Joe Davis including one billing for "Moonwalking" and another for "dancing the tango" charged to the town. Palmer and Marra approved payments.
**The firing of Glenn Caverly under curious circumstances, including his unlimited access to town diesel fuel with no accountability.
**Sweetheart deals with Artpark, while the town ate up its reserves.
** Plunging the town into a serious deficit spending spiral, making a threat of a town tax almost inevitable.

A lot changed in the past year.

At one time, Reiter was so popular that Democrats couldn’t even field a candidate to oppose him, both as town supervisor and before that as highway superintendent.

His all-Republican town board colleagues were considered shoe-ins for any election against hapless Democrats.

But following Reiter’s Republican primary defeat last fall to GOP Councilman Ernie Palmer, Palmer lost to Democrat Dennis Brochey.

Then with two years to go on his council term, Palmer resigned suddenly. Palmer also said his decision was based on wanting to spend more time with his family and devote more of his energy to his musical and accounting career, but sources close to the Niagara Falls Reporter said the myriad scandals plaguing Reiter and his "go-along" council were the real cause of Palmer quitting midway through his term.

One leading Republican source told the Reporter, "They might have just as well have resigned since none of them were electable, any more."

State Sen. George Maziarz, the undisputed head of the Republican Party in Niagara County, made a sudden announcement that he is retiring. Lewiston Councilman Ernie Palmer resigned earlier this year.

If Palmer and Marra’s resignations came as a surprise, it was nowhere near as shocking as State Sen. George Maziarz’s announcement two weeks ago that he would not seek re-election to the seat he has held since 1995.

The senator’s popularity was such that he never faced a serious challenge in any of his bi-annual, re-election bids, and was seen to be the head of the county Republican Party regardless of who was serving in the role of party chairman.

In that role, he managed the careers of many of the county’s top Republicans, including a number of those recently investigated, indicted or resigning.

Maziarz also said that he wanted to spend more time with his family, and that his decision had nothing to do with an investigation by the U.S. Justice Department into his campaign finances. Two longtime Maziarz aides—who resigned-- and his campaign treasurer have retained the services of top criminal defense attorneys.

The federal probe began after the U.S. Attorney’s office in New York City subpoenaed the records of the now defunct Moreland Commission, a group appointed by Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo to investigate public corruption in Albany.

The commission found that Maziarz had spent more than $140,000 in campaign funds without documenting where the money went. Maziarz maintains he did nothing wrong and the federal probe will come to nothing.

He has been replaced on the ballot by North Tonawanda Mayor Rob Ortt, who will face Niagara Falls Democrat Johnny Destino in November.

In the Town of Niagara, longtime Republican Town Supervisor Steve Richards agreed to a plea deal in May, after being slapped with a 28-count indictment by state Atty. Gen. Eric Schneiderman that included four felony charges.

Richards was alleged to have taken tools, gravel, paint, a shotgun and other items belonging to the town for his own personal use.

Lockport Mayor Michael Tucker’s February resignation was no less of a stunner. The popular Republican was the city’s longest serving mayor, having been re-elected to an unprecedented third term in 2012.

Tucker said he wanted to spend more time with his family and pursue a private sector opportunity that would pay him as much as three times the $43,800 he was making as mayor.
That opportunity never materialized. Tucker is now essentially unemployed and so can spend all the time he wants with his family.

But Tucker’s resignation may have had more to do with allegations of sexual harassment than any private sector opportunity and familial devotion.

Numerous sources said that Melissa Junke, head of the town’s Youth and Recreation Department, was the target of Tucker’s desires, which included lewd emails and texts.

At the time of Tucker’s resignation, a scandal involving Junke’s use of a city credit card issued to Tucker prompted Tucker to claim, sometime before he resigned, that the credit card scandal would amount to nothing.

Following a Reporter expose of the allegations, a homosexual man and a woman who had worked for the town as a school crossing guard both stepped forward to describe their own encounters of a sexual nature with the former mayor.

The woman Teri Kropp, went so far as to tell the Reporter that Tucker used his position as her boss to coerce her into a sexual relationship, charges he vehemently denied.

Tucker, Richards, Maziarz, Reiter, Palmer and Marra were all part of the Republican machine that has dominated Niagara County politics in recent years. That machine seems to be breaking down, leaving Republicans and Democrats alike to speculate on who the next GOP official will be to say he wants to spend more time with his family or take up new opportunities in the private sector.

In the meantime, the pall of scandal hanging over the party and its officials isn’t likely to go away any time soon.







Where Have all the Republicans Gone?
Forster likes Dems’ Chances in November
Mario Cuomo Defends Son as Moreland
Controversy Heats Up; Astorino
Likens Governor to Mafia Boss
Walker’s Campaign Finances Cloudy;
A Reasonable Explanation to Come?
Will Republican Legislature Again
Give Voting Booth Storage to Ulrich?
Touma Can Rescue Garbage Plan
Residents Entitled to More Than 64!
Marra’s Final Act:
‘Engineer Will Test Joe Davis Parking Lot’
Councilman’s Trash Bag Snatched
Johnny Rockets Waitress Victimized
By Poor Policy, Aretha’s Publicist?
Will Historic Hornblower Appeal
Finally Sink Glynn’s Maid of the Mist?
Are New Maid of the Mist Docks Just Tragedy Waiting to Happen?
Jury Nullification set Wild Bill Hickok Free Although He Killed a Man Illegally!
Former Council Secretary Receives
'Probable Cause' Determination in Age Discrimination 'Firing'
Reporter’s Role in Quashing Bridgewater Project Just a Part of What We Do Here
Free Idiot's Test
Racism By Any Other Name Stinks Just As Badly Online
Letters to the Editor
Did You Hear the One About Charlie Walker?

Contact Info

©2014 The Niagara Falls Reporter Inc.
POB 3083, Niagara Falls, N.Y. 14304
Phone: (716) 284-5595

Publisher and Editor in Chief: Frank Parlato
Managing Editor: Dr. Chitra Selvaraj
Senior Editor: Tony Farina