NIAGARA FALLS, NY (WKBW) - Former Niagara Falls Mayor Vince Anello said it was time to tell his side of the story, more than two months after being released from a federal prison where he served a 10 month term.
"I really don't feel that my whole life should be based about one incident," said Anello.
"I had to have my freedom taken away. I mean, I don't take that lightly, but I don't believe that defines me...I want to be judged for the kind of mayor that I was," he added.
Anello admits he made mistakes, but feels that the media has focused more on his legal troubles than his accoplishments as mayor of the Cataract City.
"I don't discount the fact I caused some of my own problems...I don't discount that," said Anello.
Anello's troubles began after it was revealed he took a $40,000 loan from businessman Joe 'Smokin Joe' Anderson before he was mayor, and then recommended Anderson for a no-bid contract with the city.
"The issue always was that Vince never disclosed that he had taken loans from Smoking Joe and subsequently, without repaying those loans, recommended certain no-bid contracts for Smoking Joe with the city," explains Rick Pfieffer, a reporter at the Niagara Gazette who covered the first year of Anello's mayoral term as well as his corruption trial.
Anello was indicted on federal charges for the apparent 'pay-to-play', however they were eventually dropped, as proving any corruption would have been a tall task.
"There was no evidence of a crime...listen, the appearance, yes it looks bad...the commition of a crime that has to be proven and there was no crime," Anello said.
The U.S. Attorney's office offered Anello a plea deal, which led to his guilty plea for taking a union pension while also working more than the allowed hours.
He was sentenced to 13 months in prison, of which he served 10, and now he is hoping to repair his legacy which he believes should reflect his passion for Niagara Falls.
"Even now people say I was the hardest working mayor we've had in the last 40 years...I was definitely a people's person," Anello said.
"I don't think anyone will ever question that Vince tried to do the things that he thought was best for the city....Whether those things were best for the city or not?" added Pfieffer.