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City Hall Under Scrutiny

Eliot Ness has entered the building - City Hall, that is.

As I report in today's Buffalo News, the FBI, the State Police and the Erie County District Attorney have assorted floors of City Hall under scrutiny.

The State Police and the DA have zoned in on Brian Davis, the Councilman who has trouble paying his bills, disclosing his finances to the Board of Elections and telling the truth about where he went to college. Their investigation is focused on allegations that Davis is a serial bad check writer and the Councilman's repeated failure to file financial disclosure reports with the Board of Elections.

I give DA Frank Sedita credit for treading where his predecessor rarely did. Especially because Sedita last year enjoyed the backing of both Mayor Byron Brown, who counts on Davis' support in the Council, and Steve Pigeon, who is working behind the scenes on the mayor's re-election campaign.

Sedita is showing he is his own man. If he continues this streak of independence, he could wind up a white knight in helping to clean up this region's cesspool political culture.

Of course, he's working with a lot fewer prosecutors and investigators than DAs in comparable counties, which is one reason I suspect the State Police are involved in the Davis investigation. Wouldn't it be nice if the DA's office was given the money to staff a public integrity unit like his counterpart in New York City?

The feds, on the other hand, have no problems with resources, and I find the FBI's interest in the Brown administration to be especially intriguing.

Keep in mind who is part of the mix - the agency's Government Corruption Unit. 

Sounds kind of ominous, doesn't it?

I couldn't drag much out of Acting U.S. Attorney Kathleen Mehltretter other than, yeah, we're up to something, but the something involves the Government Corruption Unit, so you know they're not checking for parking meter violations.

Moreover, a source familiar with what the feds have been looking into suggests this could be serious business.

First, there's Davis and the One Sunset fiasco. No big surprise there.

There's also City Hall's continued mismanagement of block grant money. Again, no surprise. (I've got to say that when I read the HUD audit that apparently piqued the interest of investigators, the report  described a program that seemed ripe for corruption.)

I'm told the FBI also has fielded allegations that - let's see, how can I put this diplomatically? - some folks involved in Brown's re-election campaign have been doing some inappropriate things that go beyond the e-mails that Tanya Perrin-Johnson has been sending to the troops.

A few words of caution.

Just 'cause the authorities are sniffing around doesn't mean there's fire to be found underneath all the smoke. But there sure seems to be a lot of smoke.

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