By Justin Sondel
Niagara Gazette — Law enforcement officials executed search warrants Tuesday at a pair of Western New York offices owned by Man O’ Trees, Inc., the contractor originally hired by the city of Niagara Falls to oversee the Lewiston Road reconstruction project.
A spokesperson for the FBI office in Buffalo confirmed that agents from the bureau assisted officials from the Department of Labor and the Department of Transportation in executing the warrants at Man O’ Trees’ offices in Buffalo and Salamanca.
FBI spokesperson Maureen Dempsey said she was not able to discuss details of the investigation at this time.
“The federal search warrants are sealed so we are not able to comment on the nature of the investigation,” Dempsey said.
Barbara Burns, a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Buffalo, said “it is the position of the U.S. Attorney’s Office to neither confirm nor deny any investigation” before declining further comment.
The city hired Man O’ Trees as the low bidder for the Lewiston Road reconstruction project in 2009. The project encountered several challenges and delays and eventually fell behind schedule, prompting Mayor Paul Dyster’s administration, with backing from the city council, to take steps to pull Man O’ Trees from the job. City officials subsequently selected Accadia Site Contracting to finish the remaining work.
Man O’ Trees’ owner David Pfeifferr long contended the firm did its best to uphold its end of the Lewiston Road contract with the city. He contended the project was impacted by a number of challenges, including a costly and time-consuming process of having to remove what they described as larger than anticipated amounts of radioactive slag from the construction site.
In September, New York State Supreme Court Justice Frank Caruso denied a request for a preliminary injunction filed as part of a lawsuit brought by Man O’ Trees. Pfeiffer’s firm had hoped to prevent the city from awarding the remaining work to another company.
Pfieffer did not return a call seeking comment Tuesday afternoon.
Dyster said he was aware of the execution of the warrants, but did not know if there was any connection between the investigation and the company’s work on the Lewiston Road project, though he did not dismiss the possibility.
“The city of Niagara Falls obviously learned enough about Man O’ Trees as a contractor to want them off the job,” Dyster said.