Last week, the Niagara Falls Reporter revealed that former town of Lewiston Supervisor Steve Reiter, was caught on surveillance cameras illegally helping himself to about $400 worth of free town gasoline over a three month period.
During the 30 years Reiter worked for the town, he told the Reporter, he never once put in for a single personal voucher for gas.
"I admit to putting gas and cans in my private car...he said. "But I never put in for a gas voucher in 30 years. You can look into it. I've got nothing to hide"
The argument sounds good, as far as it goes.
The only problem is, he couldn't put in for a personal voucher because he only used a town vehicle.
It is true that Reiter improperly used (or stole) $400 in gas during a ninety day period in 2012 while he was under surveillance. That means he was averaging $133 per month in ill-gotten gas. Considering that Reiter was taking free gas at various prices over decades, (adjusting for inflation) and assuming he did about the same while going down a 30- year employment road, it means Reiter took $47,880 worth (in today's dollars) of illegal gas during his tenure with the town.
A source close to the investigation said that, not adjusting for inflation, he would estimate that Reiter helped himself to at least $25,000 in stolen gas.
During the last 14 years, Reiter had use of a town truck 24/7. He has never been known by any of the more than two dozen people we spoke to about this story to use his own car for town business .
In fact, motor vehicle records indicate Reiter did not own a vehicle of his own until three years ago. Everywhere Reiter went - for more than a decade - was courtesy of the town of Lewiston taxpayers.
There are multiple pictures of the town truck parked at the Fashion Outlet Mall where, until recently he worked as a night watchman.
But Reiter told the Reporter, "The only times I (used the town vehicle at the Fashion Outlet Mall) was when I had a meeting at night, like, for example, we had a (town) meeting on Williams Rd, which was right before work (and) I didn't have time to go back to change vehicles. I admitted that in the investigation."
But, even after he bought a sports car for himself, he was still seen using the town truck to drive to his second job, sell bundles of firewood at a local campground on weekends, and take frequent trips to his hunting cabin in the Southern tier- all courtesy of the good taxpayers of Lewiston.
When he became town supervisor, in 2010, Reiter decided to keep the same truck he drove as highway superintendent. Later he was kind enough to allow taxpayers to buy him a new one.
When the Democrats asked why any town supervisor needed a truck of his own since no other town supervisor in the history of the town ever had one, Rieter said it was cheaper than him turning in mileage for using his own car. Hence he saved the town a lot of money.
"Do I feel like I abused my authority?," he told the Reporter, "No, not really. My honest opinion, I think we might have actually saved (the town) money."
By illegally filling up gas cans once a week or more to dump into his private vehicle, by filling up family members' vehicles, by filling up lawn mowers to mow his property in the south towns, and by using town gas to get there, and for that matter, everywhere else he liked to drive on his own personal business, Reiter says he saved the town money.
This is not unlike the argument he is alleged to have made when he was caught on surveillance cameras stealing coins out of the cash register of one of the tenants at the outlet mall, an act which got him fired from that job, sources tell us.
When confronted, Reiter is alleged to have said, "I wasn't stealing the coins. I took them to give to charity."
But it wasn't your money?
"My common sense and practicality don't bend with today's way of doing things," Reiter told the Reporter, justifying the enormous amounts of gas he stole. "Like helping neighbors, if someone is plowed in. Is it my responsibility to shovel them out? Technically, no. But, did I? You're damn right I did. I always try to help. I don't feel like I've done anything terribly wrong... I think what I tried to do means more than what they accused me of. And I made restitution."
He paid less than $1,000 in restitution. But in Stevie's World, I guess that works.
|Niagara Falls Reporter - Publisher Frank Parlato Jr.||www.niagarafallsreporter.com||
Feb 04, 2014