Niagara Gazette

October 3, 2013

Town of Niagara supervisor due in court Friday

By Rick Pfeiffer
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — Town of Niagara Supervisor Steven Richards will be "prepared to defend himself" when he appears in State Supreme Court in Lockport later today.

Richards is scheduled to be arraigned on a public corruption indictment handed down by a Niagara County grand jury. The indictment follows a more than 18-month long probe of the supervisor by agents from the New York State Attorney General's Office and the FBI.

"He is resolute, that's the way he is," Richards' defense attorney Rodney Personius said late Thursday afternoon. "He is prepared to defend himself."

The federal and state investigators have been probing what the have described only as "an ongoing matter" since March 2012. They have made multiple visits to Niagara town hall seeking documents and conducting interviews. 

Their most recent visit was in August.

Richards, who was first elected supervisor in 1995, has previously confirmed that he'd met with federal and state agents during the probe.

The supervisor said he spent "a couple of hours" with FBI agents and investigators from the Attorney General's Office during a private meeting on March 18, 2012. At that time, Richards would only say that the meeting was held at the FBI's request and was to discuss "town business.”

Richards declined to discuss anything more about the meeting at that time. He did indicate that he expected to hear from FBI agents again.

Personius said he has had ongoing communication with both investigators and prosecutors in the Attorney General's office.

"We've given information to the attorney general that we believe explains what they were asking about," Personius said. "Considering (the indictment), they have clearly concluded they don't like our explanation and they have taken the action they are entitled to."

A former federal prosecutor, Personius said he'll now make his case in court.

"I don't think there is anything (in the indictment) that we don't already know about," he said. "I guess we'll go to a higher authority."

In May 2012, town council members Rob Clark and Marc Carpenter confirmed that they had been interviewed separately by the FBI several weeks after agents first visited town hall. Both declined to discuss the specific nature of those discussions, saying only that they were cooperating with federal and state authorities.

Officials from the Attorney General's Office and the FBI have declined to comment on the case.

The charges are believed to involve allegations of illegal use of town workers, town materials and town equipment.

With mug of Steve Richards Steve Richards