Niagara Gazette

May 5, 2013

Councilman uses city letterhead to speak in support of convicted drug trafficker

By Justin Sondel
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — Councilman Charles Walker has used the city seal to speak in support of a convicted drug trafficker who is awaiting sentencing.

Walker penned a character reference letter for Wally Reynolds, a Niagara Falls man who plead guilty to a charge of conspiracy with intent to distribute marijuana in front of U.S. District Judge Richard J. Arcara, on city letterhead.

Walker said he made a mistake and had no ill intentions in using the city letterhead.

"There's no attempt to use the stationary to influence anybody," he explained.

Walker said the thought that his use of the city seal in the letter might be seen as an abuse of power never entered his mind.

"I apologize to the city as a whole," Walker said.

The U.S. Department of Justice responded to questions about the legality of using the letterhead with a two-sentence prepared statement attributed to U.S. Attorney William Hochul Jr.

“Our comments regarding this specific local official will need to wait until the day of the defendant’s sentencing," Hochul said in the statement. "However, as a general rule federal employees are forbidden from using their official title or position in order to attempt to influence an official criminal proceeding.”

Walker is identified as "Councilman, City of Niagara Falls" in the list of character letters. His wife, Linda Walker, also submitted a character reference letter. She is listed as a "family friend."

In his letter Walker writes that he interacted with Reynolds through sports when he was young. Reynolds always "had good manners and sportsmanship."

"And now as a man seeing him with his own family and doing the right thing raising his children and being active in their lives, makes me proud," Walker said in the letter.

Walker goes on to say that Reynolds made bad choices, but that there is "enough foundation" to get him back on the right track.

"The Wally I know if given the opportunity will make us all proud that we believed in him, and gave him an opportunity to make it right," Walker said in the letter.

This is the second time in recent months that a city council member improperly used city letterhead for personal purposes. Councilman Sam Fruscione announced his intention to seek reelection using the city seal, a violation of election law.

Fruscione said that he had made a mistake, attaching his letter to the wrong template and then failing to double check before distributing the document.

Mug of Walker, Charles - he's in system - No explainer words Charles Walker

Contact reporter Justin Sondel at 282-2311, ext. 2257.