TOWN OF NIAGARA – Supervisor Steven Richards responded to reports that he will be indicted on criminal charges today to say he is awaiting his moment in the sun.
Richards, who has been reported to be the focus of an investigation by the FBI and State Attorney General’s Office, said he is relieved and comfortable that he will have the opportunity to respond to the rumors and accusations that have been following him for about 18 months. He is scheduled to be arraigned today at 2 p.m. in Niagara County Judge Richard Kloch’s court room.
“I’m in a better mood. Now everything comes out, that it’s a conspiracy,” Richards said.
Richards addressed a make-shift press conference at the end of a long Town Board work session Thursday night attended by four local television cameras and reporters. Although he offered no specifics on the charges, he sharply responded to inquiries regarding his innocence and his position as supervisor, a job he has been elected to five times. He has three years left in his current term.
The allegations involve the use of town work crews, equipment and materials on private property and reportedly involve Richards Motor Service, a business run by the supervisor and his family.
Richards, along with numerous town employees and officials, was called to testify during the two-week grand jury investigation.
Richards said he has never seen the actual charges and has remained adamant that the allegations have been fabricated by the enemies he has faced during his 18 years as supervisor.
He described the entire matter as “another political hatchet job.”
Richards refused to take the matter behind closed doors for executive session despite repeated requests by Councilman Robert Clark, a frequent opponent, who said the board needed to confer with Town Attorney Michael Risman to weigh what the board should “do to protect the integrity of the town.”
“I was told the board was going to vote me off the island,” Richards said said. “We’re going to discuss it right here.”
Richards vowed to continue to fight whatever charges he is given.
“I would rather sit in jail that be bullied down,” he said.
“At this point, it’s better for me because of discovery,” he explained. He said the numerous rumors and accusations that have been the subject of emails, text messages and Facebook postings would now have to be revealed and attributed.
“Now it’s my turn,” said Richards, 60. “For two years it’s been driving me nuts. From this day forward, it’s better for me.”
At a meeting this summer, Richards reported his legal expenses as more than $44,000. He said Thursdasy that figure was now up to $66,000. He is represented by attorney Rodney O. Personius.
Richards walked out of the session followed by the cameras but the councilmen continued to discuss what the board needed to do.
Joined by board members Marc Carpenter and Charles Teixeira, Clark said they need direction from the town attorney on what they “should or shouldn’t do for the residents.” Deputy Supervisor Danny Sklarski maintained that it should be put in the form of a resolution because it would involve chargeable attorney fees. But Clark countered that Sklarski frequently consults the attorney without resolutions.
Risman said he would research the matter to determine what could be done. However, it was unclear whether the board could take any action against one of its own elected members.
“Read the state constitution,” said Richards who returned to the meeting. “I’m not going anywhere.”
The board is expected to continue the discussion at the Oct. 10 session.