Second Cop Named in Petrol-Gate Scandal Reiter Talks on the Record About his Gas Usage
By Frank Parlato
After a careful investigation, the Niagara Falls Reporter is prepared to name the second Town of Lewiston police officer who was alleged to have stolen gasoline from the town gas pumps at the Highway Garage on Swann Rd.
According to sources, during a three month surveillance by the FBI, three town employees were caught red handed.
The Reporter has named two: former Supervisor Steve Reiter and veteran police officer James Ullery.
The third person is said by sources to be former officer Michael Carroll, a former part time officer on the force, and a current employee of the New York Power Authority.
Sources say, Carroll was permitted to resign, as opposed to being fired, by his uncle, the Chief of the Lewiston Police Force, Chris Salada.
Town Councilman Mike Mara, while declining to name Carroll, said, "one of the officers who was a focus of the initial investigation, a part-time officer, was encouraged to resign and did so."
When contacted by the Reporter, Carroll denied having anything to do with the theft of gasoline. Carroll said, "The individuals involved with the gas (was) not me. I'm not going to reveal who it was, but.... I resigned due to personal reasons."
Shortly after speaking with Carroll, an attorney who identified herself as Meghann Roehl called and said her client, Carrol, is not involved in this, and, "If you publish his name, you'll be served with a summons.... You'll be sued along with a lot of other people."
A 2011 audit by the New York State Comptroller's Office sparked the investigation after auditors identified questionable fueling transactions during a period from Jan. 1, 2009 and March 18, 2011.
This, in turn, sources say, led the FBI to commence surveillance of the town gas pumps, using a hidden camera on a telephone pole with a direct line of sight to the pumps.
It is said Reiter, a town employee for 30 years, who served as a highway superintendent before becoming supervisor in January 2011, was the main focus of the surveillance.
A Republican, Reiter served two, 2-year terms as supervisor. He was up for reelection last November, but lost the Republican primary to Councilman Ernie Palmer who lost in the general election to Democrat Dennis J. Brochey.
How much gasoline Reiter, or the two officers, helped themselves to is a mystery unlikely to be solved. The FBI cameras recorded a three month period in 2012 and, according to sources, discovered Reiter stealing about 100 gallons of gas, or about $400.
Sources say the stealing, however, had been going on for years.
During the two year time period studied by the Comptroller, 662 gallons went missing. On top of that, there were 180 "questionable fueling transactions," according to the audit.
In 2010 alone, Reiter took 1,500 gallons of fuel that was recorded in his name. At $3.50 per gallon that is more than $5,000 in gasoline.
Reiter said he drove all over town to visit municipal facilities.
Among the "questionable transactions" mentioned in the audit are instances where, in less than 24 hours, Reiter took 48 gallons; had no record on his log of going anywhere, yet took 55 gallons over a couple of days; filled his truck with more gallons that the truck's gas tank could hold; gobbled up 56 gallons of fuel on a weekend he was not working.
Sources say they saw Reiter bring his wife's car to the pumps and walk back and forth with five gallon cans to fill the car up; hitch a small trailer with a riding lawn mower on the back of his town truck and take it to his home in the southern tier using town gasoline to get there and to power the lawnmower; take a town bulldozer down to his home also powered by town fuel.
The Reporter contacted Reiter to ask him about the alleged stealing of gas.
Reiter said, "Let me put it to you real bluntly. I was accused of taking gas. There's no doubt about it. I never put in for a gas voucher in 30 years. You can look into it. I've got nothing to hide. I admitted to putting gas and (gas) cans in my private car, but I never claimed mileage or anything like that."
Reiter said he also gave gas to town employees who used their private vehicles for town work or when they car pooled instead of taking town vehicles.
"I know it's not right," he said. "We should've done paperwork and all that stuff... It's the letter of the law.... I admitted to screwing up... Do I feel like I abused my authority? No, not really. My honest opinion: I think we might have actually saved the town money."
Asked if he thought there would be criminal charges leveled against him, Reiter said the matter was closed and that he made restitution.
Asked how much restitution he made, Reiter said, "I don't know if I'm supposed to talk about that."
Was it over a thousand dollars?
In another development, the Reporter learned that Officer Ullery, who was suspended without pay for 45 days as punishment for stealing gasoline from the people, was able to make up some of his hours at the Village of Youngstown Police Department, where Salada is also chief.
Ullery, while working in Youngstown, a source in the police department confirmed, was paid at a lower rate of pay- about $16 per hour - and did not get fulltime work.
Consequently, while Ullery did not lose the full 45 days of wages, about $5,000, it is estimated that he lost about $2,500 in wages for his theft of gasoline.
|Niagara Falls Reporter - Publisher Frank Parlato Jr.||www.niagarafallsreporter.com||
Jan 28, 2014