NIAGARA FALLS, NEW YORK – New York State’s political arsenal faced a blow as both local and state officials found themselves in a whirlwind of controversy.
On Thursday, Mar. 9, an Albany County grand jury began hearing testimony as part of a probe into former Republican State Sen George Maziarz.
The probe, conducted by Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, looks into Maziarz use of campaign funds, as well as the Niagara County Republican Committee. The inquiry specifically aims to uncover whether campaign funds were illegally siphoned to subcontractors.
Various individuals with both political and personal connections to the case spoke in court in exchange for immunity. These individuals included former County Legislator Glenn Aronow, as well as the wife of current State Sen. Robert Ortt.
On Friday, Mar. 10, President Donald Trump’s administration ordered the resignation of all remaining United States attorneys. Although the procedure is typical of presidential transition, controversy arose when the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara refused to resign. Bharara was originally expected to remain in his position, as he had stated after a visit to Trump Tower in November. The change of heart from the Trump administration came as a shock to both Bharara and social media.
After his refusal to resign, Bharara tweeted Saturday that he was fired by the Trump administration. The tweet set off a social media firestorm, with many criticizing Trump for changing course.
Bharara is most remembered for taking on corruption cases against both Wall Street and Albany. Bharara was known in Western New York as the prosecutor behind the Buffalo Billion bribery scandal, as well as the extortion and bribery cases against former Erie County Democratic Chair Steve Pigeon.
In the local arena, Niagara Falls City Councilman Ezra P. Scott Jr. was charged with driving while intoxicated. Scott was charged after Niagara Falls Police reported to an accident along the 300 block of Hyde Park Boulevard around 5 a.m. on Saturday, Mar. 11. There was apparent damage to both a building and another car. Nobody was injured.
Scott was elected in 2015, and made the news when he helped to save the Niagara Falls Memorial Day Parade from cancellation last year alongside fellow City Councilman Ken Tompkins.