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FBI Investigates Allegations of Political Interference

By Mark Scott

Buffalo, NY – Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown acknowledged Friday the FBI is investigating allegations that City Hall may have been politically involved in allowing renovation work to proceed without proper permits at the Webb Building on Pearl Street.

A 24-year-old construction worker was fatally injured in a fall there on Tuesday.

A city inspector ordered work to be stopped in February because it had exceeded the scope of the permit then in effect. The inspector called Buffalo police to help him enforce the stop work order. Police and the inspector were reportedly told to leave the site by deputy mayor Steven Casey, after building owner and developer Rocco Termini interceded.

Work continued on the project, although the proper permits were not issued until this past Monday, only a day before the fatal mishap. But Mayor Byron Brown told reporters that at the time of the accident the proper permits were in place.

"There was only one call to this office from a police officer, inquiring 'I have a developer on one side saying the project shouldn't be stopped and an inspector saying he (the developer) doesn't have the right permit.' We said 'stop the project, ask both parties to come down and we'll try to resolve the issue.' That's what happened," Brown explained.

Late Friday afternoon, City Corporation Counsel Alisa Lukasiewicz said the FBI had subpoenaed documents from the city's office of inspections and permits. Agents also interviewed several city employees.

Termini was a major financial contributor to Mayor Byron Brown's 2005 campaign. He purchased the Webb Building from developer Carl Paladino in December, and started the $9.2 million renovation in January.