BUFFALO, NY (WKBW) — Allegations surfaced against the Brown Administration accusing some city employees and Buffalo police officers of violating federal law during Mayor Byron Brown’s re-election campaign.
An Investigative Post article revealed a formal complaint now filed in the U.S. Office of Special Counsel accusing violations of the federal Hatch Act. That law bans civil service employees from participating in political campaigns.
“I was told — write down Byron Brown by one of the officers,” described Emin Egriu.
Egrui confirms to 7 News that he was contacted by the federal U.S. Office of Special Counsel.
He says he was questioned on a complaint that was filed about what he says he observed during Mayor Brown’s re-election campaign last fall.
“Can you confirm that you have been interviewed by the Office of Special Counsel on a complaint?” Buckley questioned. “I received a phone call about it. They asked me a few questions and I responded as the situation took place and yes, I was called,” replied Egriu.
It is important to note Egriu is a democratic candidate running against incumbent Congressman Brian Higgins in the August primary for the 26th Congressional District.
Egriu tells me last October at the Broadway Market the Muslim Alliance of Western New York was endorsing Brown's opponent India Walton. He says some Buffalo police officers, who were on patrol made them feel “uncomfortable” saying they should not support Walton because she was threatening to “defund” police.
“I tried to calm them down. I told them no, this is not true. They didn't want to hear it and I said if I have anything to do with it I will do my best not to defund the police,” Egriu recalled.
Egriu says he also witnessed some City Hall employees trying to chase away poll watchers from outside a polling place.
“I was kind of shocked that the attitude and the things that were happening and I went and I tried to bring them back to the front corner, especially on Delavan and Grider,” explained Egriu.
The U.S. Office of Special Counsel responded to my request for comment.
In a written statement it said the “OSC is unable to comment on or confirm whether we have specfic open hatch act investigations.”
The Hatch Act aims to prevent government workers from engaging in partisan political activity.
“It’s this fine line that candidates sometimes walk, and it's very easy to step over that,” noted Jacob Neisheisel.
To get a better understanding of how it works I reached out to Associate Professor of Political Science at the University at Buffalo, Jacob Neisheisel.
He couldn't talk directly about this case but offered insight into what investigators might be looking at.
“Were the police acting in an official capacity? Were they using the logo and the trappings of the Buffalo Police in order to make this clearly partisan campaign pitch,” remarked Neisheisel. “It is something that most state and local offices are covered under and it tends to at least in my memory — police that run afoul of this."
During an event Tuesday with Mayor Brown, the media was told no off topics would be taken.
I also reached out to the mayor's office a second time for comment and was told their office has “not been contacted” on the matter.