BUFFALO, NY - Buffalo's Mayor is fighting back this weekend against accusations of corruption. An out-of-town developer is suing the mayor and other city officials over a project that fell apart before it even began. The mayor is now arguing the case and all of its criminal allegations should be thrown out of court.
Four years ago, a Cleveland Company agreed to build affordable housing on some vacant lots in Buffalo's Masten District, but its deal with the city fell apart.
The company, called NRP, then sued, accusing Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown and other city officials, including Councilman Demone Smith, of breaking the contract.
The company also accused them of engaging in "pay-to-play" politics. Specifically, the company said the Mayor insisted it hire East Side Reverend Richard Stenhouse, a political supporter of the mayor, to be part of the project.
The mayor allegedly told the developer, "Make Stenhouse happy or the deal will not go through." The company never hired him, and the project never happened.
Now, the mayor's legal team is fighting back in court. They're asking a federal judge to dismiss the case, arguing first that a binding contract between the city and the Cleveland Company "never existed."
Instead, they argue the company tried to smear the mayor, and the primary reason for the lawsuit, and all of its allegations, was to make the mayor and others look bad to "exert political pressure on them, and extort a settlement."
Adding that the company, for all of its accusations, provided no evidence of any wrongdoing.
While there are criminal allegations in this lawsuit this is only a civil case, not a criminal case. Initially, the Cleveland Company also sued Reverend Stenhouse, but it has since dismissed its claims against him.
The Buffalo News reported that Stenhouse's insurance company agreed to a $200,000 settlement. Mr. Stenhouse's lawyer would not confirm that.
The mayor's lawyer declined our request for an on-camera interview.