Former Supervisor May Have Stuffed His Pockets With More Than Gas
By Frank Parlato
Did we mention tip of the iceberg?
After the NYS comptroller's audit of the Town of Lewiston was published in 2011, officials in this community of 16,000 were on notice that there was a problem: the suspicious use (i.e. theft) of gas by one or more town employees.
For whatever reason, perhaps because the chief executive of the town, Supervisor Steve Reiter, was doing most of the suspicious usage (i.e. stealing), the town did not exercise proper controls afterwards-until now.
The Niagara Falls Reporter has recently learned that much more than gas had been taken, evidence of which may wind up leading once again to the doorstep of, Reiter.
In addition to an estimated $25,000 to $40,000 worth of gasoline stolen over the past 14 years by Reiter, it is suspected that he may have helped himself to many valuable items belonging to the Lewiston taxpayers.
In the spring of 2013, 20 sewer pipes valued at $1,000 were removed from the town sewer plant on Fletcher Road. According to witnesses, Reiter had been seen loading them on his truck. At least one employee of the sewer department was ordered to help Reiter load the pipe. Some suggest that a survey of Reiter's hunting camp in the Southern Tier might yield a clue as to what happened to the pipes.
In the summer of 2012, 10 large cedar and aluminum picnic tables, valued at approximately $9,000, are said to have mysteriously disappeared from the highway garage yard. Used from time to time for firemen and Rotary Club picnics, the tables were a town asset.
One weekend, Reiter, who had a key to the yard, made an odd request to the highway department for permission to bring in a large trailer with a load of cut brush for disposal back where the big pile of town brush rests awaiting shredding. The picnic tables, which would have required a large trailer to haul, also disappeared that same weekend.
When the men showed up on Monday to work at the highway department, sources said, they noticed the tables were missing and it was reported to the supervisor, Reiter.
Reiter told them not to bother to file a police report, that he would personally investigate the matter himself.
The tables have not, to this date, been recovered.
In the summer of 2011, Reiter caused a significant amount of copper piping from two dismantled town swimming pools to be removed from the Joseph Davis Park and put into the hands of a scrapper, who, in turn submitted a check for $200 to Town Clerk Carol Brandon.
When Brandon asked the scrapper, a man named Donovan, if that was all there was, Donovan purportedly answered, "no," and told her he had given the cash to Reiter.
When Brandon asked Reiter what happened to the cash, he reportedly told her that he used it for the town employee picnic at Joe Davis Park.
How much Reiter and/or the town took in from the copper (and other metal at the park), as well as how much was spent on the picnic is anybody's guess.
Sources tell us the copper, alone, was worth several thousand dollars.
Reiter also took it upon himself to dispose of tons of additional scrap metal the town had accumulated and stored in the highway garage.
When asked why there was no money received for the scrap metal, worth perhaps $10,000 or more, Reiter replied that he had forged a deal with George Wolf (now of Lockport) for the town to get free use of his dumpster. In return, Reiter claimed, Wolf kept all the proceeds from the scrap.
Ironically, almost any scrapper in the business will provide a free dumpster to facilitate a sizable transaction of scrap metal. Such is common practice. The deal between Wolf and Reiter, however, was that the town would receive nothing for the metal, but the free use of a dumpster that would have had to be provided nonetheless.
On another occasion, a chainsaw, a trimmer and a weed whacker were found nestled in Reiter's wife's tool shed. Former town employee Andrew Myers was doing lawn work at Reiter's home when he found the tools labeled "Property of the Town of Lewiston" in spray paint. He returned them to the highway department, for which, according to sources, he was later scolded by Reiter (now the highway department puts locks on the tool shed).
One year, Reiter was spotted inside the highway garage with a giant leaf bag bulging and filled to the brim with who knows what. Shortly after he left, someone discovered that the entire stash of empty soda cans the men had been collecting for redemption to use for their annual party was missing.
Afterwards, the men had to hide their empty soda bottles from Reiter.
On another occasion, at a dinner function in Sanborn, several people had left their tables with their wine bottles unopened. Reiter was then spotted by a number of witnesses collecting the bottles (of what was most likely $5 wine) and stuffing them in his sports jacket.
As Reiter left the party, he folded his arms in a curious way so as not to reveal the bulges in his jacket.
"That's our supervisor," one of the witnesses said.
The Reporter has already mentioned that Reiter was fired from his position at the Outlet Mall in the Town of Niagara for stealing coins out of cash registers.
In defense, Reiter said he was only taking superfluous coins. Another of his defenses was that he collected the change inside the cash registers (which did not belong to him) to donate it.
It is also alleged that Reiter stole pennies from various vendors' "take a penny, leave a penny" cups.
According to witnesses who work in security, he was caught on surveillance cameras installed in the mall.
(Coming soon: Did Reiter use town vendors to do work for him personally? And a look at the town's Home Depot Charge account during the Reiter era.)
|Niagara Falls Reporter - Publisher Frank Parlato Jr.||www.niagarafallsreporter.com||
Feb 25, 2014