Agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and investigators from the New York State Attorney General's Office interviewed more than a dozen individuals in Lewiston on Thursday as part of what was described as an "ongoing matter."
An FBI spokesperson would only confirm that agents had been in the "Lewiston jurisdiction."
"Investigators for the FBI and New York State Attorney General's Office were in Lewiston, N.Y. (on Thursday), conducting interviews on an ongoing matter," Agent Maureen Dempsey said on Friday.
Dempsey declined to discuss the nature of the "ongoing matter" or the results of the interviews.
Reached by telephone Friday evening, Supervisor Steve Reiter confirmed he spoke to authorities for about two hours. He said the discussion involved "some situations in the town and some past practices" and that agents wanted to see what town officials "were doing about it."
Reiter described the conversations as involving at least two specific areas — town work on private property and gas usage.
Both issues were raised as part of a 2011 state comptroller's audit that expressed concern about, among other things, the town's handling of municipal fuel supplies and "questionable" drainage repairs performed by the highway department during the audit period between Jan. 1, 2009 and March 18, 2011.
Reiter said he was told by investigators that their work was expected to be wrapped "fairly quickly," adding that he believes they were "satisfied with a lot of the explanations for different scenarios."
"Maybe some changes in procedure will come as a result," Reiter said.
Highway Superintendent Doug Janese said he was approached by a pair of FBI agents on Thursday who asked him about the town's fuel supply. Janese said he told the authorities he felt he needed to contact the town's attorney before answering any questions, which he did.
"There was no interview," Janese said. "They did interview every single one of my employees.
"I'm pretty sure I had a fiduciary responsibility as a town official to contact the town attorney," Janese added.
Members of the Lewiston Town Board were briefed on the inquiries on Thursday night.
"I received a call from the town attorney who told me that the FBI had visited the highway garage and interviewed the highway superintendent," Town Board Member Ernest Palmer said.
The comptroller's office determined last year that several drainage improvement projects undertaken by the highway department during the audit period were not necessary or were not the town’s responsibility. The auditors estimated that the projects cost taxpayers at least $32,000, while contending that the actual amount is likely “substantially greater” as the audit only reviewed 15 of 44 drainage projects documented during the two-year period. Auditors noted that the projects were performed on property owned by private residents, one private developer and a local fire department.
In his formal response to the audit, Reiter, who served as highway superintendent before being elected to the supervisor's post, maintained that most of the installations consisted of approaches or driveways to private lands and in each case the property owners were required to purchase the pipe which was installed by town workers. Reiter disagreed with the auditor’s findings following its release, saying all of the projects in question were done in keeping with current town ordinances and past practices and for the benefit of the community as a whole.
The comptroller’s office also determined that town officials failed to adequately safeguard against the risk of loss or misuse of town fuel supplies. The audit suggested town officials failed to fully implement security features that would have tightened controls and did not “consistently enforce existing controls.” Auditors argued that the “deficient controls” resulted in “questionable fuel use that may not have been for town purposes.”
In response, town officials indicated that better safeguards and protocols for use of town fuel supplies would be implemented in the future.