Niagara Gazette

Lewiston

January 23, 2014

Lewiston officials decline release of details in officers' conduct case.

Niagara Gazette — TOWN OF LEWISTON — Town officials still aren’t discussing the conduct of a pair of police officers who were the subject of an internal investigation last year.

Under a state statute dating back to the 1970s, they are under no legal obligation to do so. 

Civil Rights Law section 50-a requires “all personnel records, used to evaluate performance toward continued employment or promotion” for first responders to be “considered confidential and not subject to inspection or review without the express written consent of such police officer, firefighter/paramedic, correction officer or peace officer within the division of parole except as may be mandated by lawful court order.”

In recent weeks, Town Attorney Mark Davis and members of the town board have repeatedly cited the statue while declining comment on the specific nature of last year’s investigation, which they have acknowledged involved the Niagara County District Attorney’s Office and the New York State Police. 

“It’s a state statute that I’m not allowed to comment on this matter,” Councilman Michael Marra said last week. 

Town officials confirmed in October that two members of the town’s police force were investigated for unspecified “allegations.” They have declined comment on the specific nature of the “allegations,” although they are believed to have been tied to the officers’ access to the town’s fuel supply station on Swann Road. 

“I don’t think we ever ran from that,” Councilman Ernest Palmer said last week. “But it never went through the criminal justice system. So all we can really say is there were some allegations.”

The investigation followed the installation of surveillance equipment near the town fuel pumps last year. The source of the equipment, which has since been removed, is also not being discussed publicly by town officials.

In a 2011 audit, the New York State Comptroller’s Office questioned the internal controls over the town’s fuel supply. At the time, state auditors indicated that they found “no evidence of criminal activity” during their review of the town’s operations and finances.  

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