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LEWISTON – Because of “a legal cloud hanging over his head,” the Niagara County Republican organization has decided it cannot support Supervisor Steven L. Reiter in his re-election bid.

County GOP Chairman Scott P. Kiedrowski said Tuesday the party has chosen to actively support Councilman Ernest C. Palmer for supervisor, and sent out a mailing on Palmer’s behalf last week. Reiter and Palmer, the former Niagara Falls and Youngstown police chief, face off in a GOP primary Sept. 10.

“I just think they think Ernie is more electable,” Reiter said Monday, although he said he is staying in the race.

Reiter is being investigated over his admitted use of town fuel pumps for his personal vehicles when he was highway superintendent as well as during his current term as supervisor.

The Buffalo News disclosed June 8 that the FBI had questioned Reiter about several matters, but sources said the case seems to have boiled down to the misappropriation of town gasoline.

“The fact is, Steve Reiter continues to have a legal cloud hanging over his head, based on his own admissions of using town gas pumps for personal use, and that legal investigation apparently will not be cleared up any time soon. The leadership of our party believes we need to move in a different direction,” Kiedrowski wrote in an email to The News.

The News learned that the case has been referred to the state Attorney General’s Office for possible prosecution. Spokesman Robert Middaugh was unable to provide more information Tuesday.

For Reiter, it was the latest bad news this summer. Besides the criminal probe, he underwent emergency open-heart surgery July 5.

Four heart bypasses later, Reiter was hurriedly gathering nominating petitions to get on the ballot, beating the deadline of 5 p.m. July 11 with 10 minutes to spare.

But four days later, Lewiston voters overwhelmingly rejected his pet project, an $8 million recreation center.

Reiter said he is “quietly campaigning,” knocking on voters’ doors. “I think I’ve got as good a chance as I always have,” he said.

There was a dispute over whether Reiter ever had the Republican Party’s endorsement. Reiter said, “I was at a meeting where they endorsed me. They never told me they took it away from me.”

“They never endorsed Steve. I’m the endorsed candidate,” Palmer said.

Kiedrowski said the county GOP committee didn’t make a formal endorsement in the race.

“At this point, neither of the candidates are endorsed until after the primary,” said Robert Ciszewski, chairman of the town Republican Committee.

Palmer has the endorsements of the Independence and Conservative parties.

The winner of the GOP primary faces the winner of a Democratic contest between Village of Lewiston Trustee Dennis J. Brochey Sr., that party’s endorsed candidate, and town Finance Director and ex-councilman Michael A. Johnson.

email: tprohaska@buffnews.com