Editor’s note: This is the fourth of a 10-day series profiling the top 10 local news stories of the year, chosen by the staff of the Niagara Gazette.

n THE STORY: Mayor Vince Anello admitted in May that he had accepted three checks, totaling $40,000, in 2003 from local developer “Smokin Joe” Anderson, prompting a federal investigation.

Anello has said the loan was for his struggling electrical company.

Several companies that Anderson has an interest in have since done business with the city, including signing a lease to operate the city’s East Mall and receiving a low-interest loan from the NFC Development Corp., the city’s banking arm.

n THE INVESTIGATION SO FAR: The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Buffalo issued a subpoena to the Niagara Falls city controller in August to present “invoices, vouchers, receipts and other related documentation” for all city credit cards used by Anello and City Administrator Daniel Bristol since Jan. 1, 2004, according to city records.

The grand jury also has issued a subpoena to a law department secretary to produce all versions of financial disclosure statements for Anello for 2002, 2003 and 2004, as well as records used to track the financial disclosure forms.

Anello’s election documents filed with the Niagara County Board of Elections also have been subpoenaed by the grand jury. Several city officials, including two members of the City Council and a city staff members, have said they were questioned by federal investigators.

n WHY IT MADE THE LIST: Since news of Anderson’s loan and the subsequent investigation broke, questions over Anello’s fate have swirled throughout the area. The incident has also brought statewide attention to the Falls.

Quote of note

“As far as I’m concerned, it’s just the normal course of business,” — Vince Anello said of the grand jury’s request for documents, which he said are processed in the same way citizens can request information under the state’s Freedom of Information Law.

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