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May 13 - May 21, 2014

Lewiston Tax Receiver Caught Collecting Signatures for Reiter in Town Hall

By Margaret Shea

May 13, 2014

Steven Reiter needed all the help he could get.

Last week one of our readers sent the Niagara Falls Reporter a copy of a Republican Party nominating petition that was submitted to the Niagara County Board of Elections on July 11, 2013.

The petition was filed on behalf of former Supervisor Steven Reiter to enable him to run in last year's Republican primary.  As readers know he lost.

All candidates for elected office have to obtain the signatures of a percentage of the registered voters in order to have their name placed on the ballot.  You may have had people knock on your door in the evening or walk up to your home on weekends and ask you to sign these petitions.

Yet one person in Lewiston decided to make it much more convenient for town employees to sign one of Reiter's petitions.  As evidenced by her signature at the bottom of the petition, that person was Joan B. Stevens, who is the receiver of taxes for the Town of Lewiston. 

After all the stories written by this newspaper regarding the curious and potentially unethical behavior, not to mention poor judgment shown by Reiter and other members of his administration, there is now another golden nugget reflecting in the sunshine of scrutiny the same type of behavior. 

Readers should know there is absolutely nothing wrong with any elected official or town employee supporting or assisting any candidate running for public office.

But Stephens crossed a line by collecting - it is, in fact, illegal - those signatures from residents and from town hall employees on the taxpayer's time and in a town-owned building.  She collected political signatures in town hall.

Instead of doing the work that the taxpayers were paying her to do, Stephens was spending her time obtaining voter signatures on nominating petitions for the Reiter political campaign. 

As for Reiter, perhaps he was pleased, even proud of her behavior because it's exactly the type of wrongful and improper conduct he seemed to always engage in.      

The signatures on the petitions - all dated July 11 - read like a "Who's Who" of town hall employees: Water department clerk Darleen Norwich, now Acting Town Clerk Donna Garfinkle, Deputy Town Clerk Carole Schroeder, building maintenance and grounds worker Jen Rossman,  Animal Control officer David Sheriff, parks department employee Andrew Meyers, water department employee Joseph LaDuca, sewer plant secretary Rosalie Kilmer, water department employee Daniel Zahno, Accountant Kaitlin Allen, and building department secretary Sandra Van Uden all signed the Reiter petition and each of their signatures were dated July 11th, and each were witnessed by Joan B. Stevens.

Later that same day - ironically - the petitions were received by the Niagara County Board of Elections.  According to the official 'received time' stamp on the coversheet of the Reiter petition, it was received in Lockport on July 11th at 4:50 p. m., a mere 10 minutes before the 5 p. m. deadline. 

July 11 was the last day to file petitions at the board of elections. 

The town hall is open between 8 a. m. and 4:30 p.m. So with the 25-plus minute drive from Lewiston to Lockport, unless they were flown in by helicopter, these signatures had to have been collected before the workday was finished for these employees at 4:30.

Since each signature is dated, there is little doubt that the signatures were collected on the same day, and at the same place, and in the same time frame.  They were clearly all signed on July 11, inside the Town of Lewiston Town Hall, during work hours.

I don't think any of us would have any doubt what would happen if an average citizen in an average town would have walked into a municipal building during work hours and tried to pass political petitions. You or I would have been asked to leave the building and if we refused, the authorities would have been contacted to remove us.

But Lewiston isn't an average town when it comes to political corruption and misdeeds. 

And Joan B. Stevens is not an average citizen. She is a duly elected official of the Town of Lewiston who should have known better.


At the last day, during the last few hours, they realized that Reiter needed more signatures. So they signed them up in Town Hall.





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