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AUGUST 05 - AUGUST 13, 2014

Campaign Disclosure Lies? Walker Blames 'Treasurer,' Who Says He Had No Part in it!

By Anna M. Howard

August 05, 2014

Council Chairman Charles Walker said the reason why he is the sole council candidate that no one knows who donated to his campaign last year is because his treasurer (and he, himself) were unable to figure out how to submit the forms for 18 months.

Last week we reported that the chairman of the Niagara Falls City Council, Charles Walker, did not file campaign financial reports with the NYS Board of Elections for a year and a half, including all six required during his election last year.,

Financial disclosures, posted on the State Board of Elections' website, detail donations to, and money spent, by a candidate.

Last week the Niagara Gazette reported that Walker blamed his "campaign treasurer," Isaac Williams, who, the council chairman said, was unable to learn how to file the reports or submit them on the internet during an 18 month period.

"He couldn't figure out how to get it into the system," Walker told the Gazette.

Walker's "incompetent" treasurer is none other than the brother of Stephanie Cowart, executive director of the Niagara Falls Municipal Housing Authority (NFMHA).

Walker, in turn, is treasurer of the NFMHA and in his dual role as councilman, Walker has voted on getting the NFMHA money and services from the city on numerous occasions.

In turn, the NFMHA has used some of its money to hire Williams to teach computer courses to NFMHA tenants.

That's right, Walker's allegedly computer illiterate treasurer teaches computer.

Niagara Gazette Columnist Ken Hamilton told the Reporter that he believes that, despite what Walker told the Gazette, Williams knows how to use a computer and could easily file reports online.

"Even though I was introduced to computers in 1972," Hamilton said, "I often get help from Isaac. I find him to be very knowledgeable on computer operations. He is an IT guy."

A search of the internet reveals Hamilton is right. Williams is employed as an information systems assistant at Unifrax Corporation.

So this is the man who Walker said couldn't figure out how to submit a simple internet submission that every other council member or their treasurers in Niagara Falls, and, for that matter, across the state, were able to do?

"I suspect that, based on my many years of politics and filing paperwork, that the only way Mr. Williams was not able to submit the paperwork from Mr. Walker is that he never got the paperwork from Mr. Walker," Hamilton said.

So Hamilton did what any intrepid, enquiring mind would do. He went to Isaac Williams' home to ask him.

Williams told Hamilton, he said, for the record, "If I was somebody's treasurer, wouldn't I know where the bank account was?"

Don't you know?

No it’s not a Charles Walker puppet but Pinocchio whose nose grew longer whenever he lied.

"No. I told Charles Walker, after his last election, that I was no longer his treasurer."

During the election Williams said he did not act as his treasurer and that he received and endorsed only one check and gave that to Walker to deposit.

Williams added that he was perturbed when he read in the newspaper that Walker said he could not handle the simple internet task of submitting disclosure forms. He added that, even after the reports appeared in the newspaper, Walker has not contacted him. "He's pissed at Charley. He's angry," Hamilton said. "Ike was particularly angry about Walker saying he could not figure out how to upload a simple internet form."

By failing to file disclosure forms, Walker is in violation of New York State election law. According to the New York State Board of Elections Website, there are three election reports filed in connection with each Primary and General Election. These are due 32 Days Pre-Election, 11 Days Pre-Election and 10 Days Post-Election for Primary Elections, or 27 Days Post-Election for General Elections.

Walker did not file any of these.

Failure to file could result in penalties being assessed against the treasurer of a committee, or the candidate. According to New York State Election Law 14-126 (1) "Any candidate (or his treasurer) who willfully and knowingly fails to file required forms can be fined $1000 per failure."

In addition (EL 14-126 (4) provides that any candidate or his treasurer can be charged with a misdemeanor.

While it is almost unheard of to level criminal charges, it can happen.

NYS Assembly candidate Joseph Mascia of Buffalo pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor in April in Buffalo City Court for not filing campaign financial disclosure statements in his unsuccessful 2012 run for the 149th State Assembly District seat.

Mascia got 14 percent of the vote to Sean Ryan's 67.5 percent.

Perhaps Mascia would not have been charged by the Erie County District Attorney for his one-time failure for doing the exact thing Walker failed to do for 18 months, if Mascia wasn't a thorn in a lot of people's sides.

Mascia is a "tenant commissioner" at the Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority and often makes waves over spending and poor living conditions.

Mascia will be sentenced later this month.

Election law attorney Peter Reese, who is familiar with the Mascia case, said, "The sin, if there was any, is that (Mascia) ignored the entreaties of the board of elections for two years and then he filed after he was charged. Mascia, while never elected, will officially be a criminal for the rest of his life."

While Walker may have not been repeatedly entreated by the state board to file, he has repeatedly acknowledged to the media, when asked, that his filings are not up to date and that he will get right to it.

"I have to sit down this week or next week to get that figured out," he told the Gazette in July.

This is not unlike what he told the Buffalo News last fall when questioned about why he was the only council candidate who failed to file any pre or post primary and general election filings during the 2013 campaign season.

The News reported in October with the election less than a week away that Walker failed to file six disclosure reports required by the State Board of Elections.

Walker told The News "he would check with the two people helping to manage his campaign about the unfiled paperwork."

Nine months later, Walker still hasn't filed.

Reese said there is one way legally that Walker could be excused from filing: if he did not take in or spend more than $1,000 during the campaign finance period.

"If we take Walker at his word then the reason he did not file is that he has not spent $1,000," Reese said. "If it is true, he is an absolute gem of a man. Who else can get elected without raising or spending $1,000? This is a man I would want running my government. For Walker to pull off failing to file his campaign disclosures for years without anybody asking any hard questions, I think he is priceless. I can't imagine that the state or county board hasn't come knocking at his door. He has to keep records. He has to have a campaign finance account. Yet no one is calling him on it. This is a man the voters of Niagara Falls have to keep. This guy is a keeper."

The Niagara Falls Reporter learned that Walker received more than $1,000 during the campaign season last year.

Among donors whose contributions alone would mandate campaign disclosures were: the Niagara Falls Fire Officers political action committee ($1,250), Niagara Falls Firefighters PAC ($1,250), International Union of Operating Engineers Local 463 PAC ($1,000) and the Niagara County Democratic Committee ($1,200).

According to the NYS Board of Elections website, Walker also did not file disclosure forms when he ran for re-election in 2009.

Walker has been a councilman for 17 years.

As of press time, it is not known if Walker filed disclosure forms in his elections in 2005 and 2001.





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