Niagara Gazette

May 21, 2013

Town of Niagara supervisor, councilman make up following heated exchange, removal from post

By Justin Sondel
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — The town of Niagara was without a commissioner of police, but only for a matter of hours.

Town Supervisor Steve Richards fired Councilman Charles Teixeira from the appointed position at the end of Tuesday's town board meeting.

But a few hours later, Richards and Teixeira called the Gazette and told a reporter they were going to work out their differences.

Teixeira expressed disappointment in the way that a personnel matter was handled at a board work session on May 9 during his closing remarks at the meeting, saying that Richards or the town's attorney, Michael Risman, should have called for the board to go into executive session while discussing an ongoing workers' compensation fraud investigation.

Richards discussed the details of the investigation — including the names of the people being investigated — in front of reporters during the work session.

The names of some of those being investigated then appeared in an article in the Niagara Falls Reporter.

Richards was addressing the concerns of Councilman Rob Clark, who had posted pictures of the car of the private investigator working the case on his Facebook page. 

Clark said he feared the investigators were following him on behalf of Richards, as he and the supervisor have a long-standing feud.

"I'm a little disappointed in our attorney and in the professionalism of our supervisor and attorney at the time," Teixeira said in his closing remarks at the meeting.

Richards then got up from his chair, walked over to where Teixeira was sitting and engaged him in a heated exchange, all while Councilman Dan Sklarski gave his closing remarks.

"You're fired," Richards said to Teixeira while standing on the dais.

Teixeira said he felt the firing was directly related to his criticisms of Richards and Risman immediately after the meeting.

"I think it's exactly about voicing my opinion," Teixeira said.

Risman said it is not his responsibility to tell the board when they are to go into executive session.

"I don't make that determination," Risman said.

After the meeting Richards had said he fired Teixeira because the police payroll budget had a $126,000 shortfall, something that came to his attention after the town 's accounting firm Brown & Company LLP submitted an audit.

Richards provided the Gazette with a spreadsheet compiled by the town's principal accountant outlining the overages detailed in the audit.

"I need to look out for the taxpayers," Richards said in his office after the meeting.

Richards said that after talking with Teixeira — who he described as a friend since childhood — they realized they both wanted to protect the taxpayers and would continue to work to control costs together.

"We talked afterward," Richards said. "We're both after the same thing."

Richards said there is already too much animosity on the board, referring to his feud with Clark. 

"There's enough people fighting here," Richards said. "We don't need to be fighting."

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