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Disciplinary action surfaces against acting CPS commissioner

WBFO's Mike Desmond

What looked like a fairly routine confirmation of a new Erie County commissioner of Central Police Services changed Wednesday. Legal paper work surfaced showing the nominee had been punished in 1999 for sexually-blatant language directed to a female employee of the Lackawanna Police Department.

Lackawanna Police Chief James Michel is retiring from that post and is serving as interim CPS commissioner. His confirmation was slated to be voted on during Thursday's Erie County Legislature session.

Then, Legislature Majority Leader Joseph Lorigo produced internal paperwork signed by then-Police Chief Dennis O'Hara on the circumstances of charges brought against the nominee. Michel said it did happen.

"I was told that it did not come from a female employee, but it came from somebody else that was speaking on her behalf, one of the other officers," Michel said. "At that time, I had no idea what was really going on. I have the utmost respect for women. If I didn't, my wife wouldn't appreciate that."

Michel was fined 10 vacation days and O'Hara decided he and the other worker, who was not named, would be kept on separate schedules. Legislators said all this will be discussed in the Thursday morning legislators caucus, as they decide what to do.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.