The next several days should determine whether former West Seneca Supervisor Paul T. Clark and others will plead guilty to misdemeanors or face a grand jury weighing felony charges of election law violations, according to District Attorney Frank J. Clark.
"There are very serious and very specific plea negotiations ongoing," Frank Clark said. "Whether they are successful or not, we will know within the next 10 days."
He said his staff has been in contact with lawyers representing Paul Clark and four others, and that, if they do not accept the misdemeanor pleas, a more serious situation is likely.
"Then my focus changes," he explained. "If I have to go before a grand jury, I will look at it from a different perspective."
For more than a year, the district attorney has been investigating allegations, initially reported in The Buffalo News, that Paul Clark had attempted to hide various contributions and expenditures during his unsuccessful campaign last year for the Democratic nomination for county executive. Michael W. Mullins, a former campaign aide, said he handed two bank bags stuffed with $20,000 in cash to a Buffalo marketing consultant to hide one transaction.
Mullins, who lives in Clarence and runs a Buffalo home health care business, also said he paid an office secretary about $8,000 to keep her salary off the books.
He also raised several other questions that might point to election law violations.
"The total amount of money was in excess of $50,000 for these activities," Mullins told the district attorney in a December letter. "Nothing was ever reported to the New York State Board of Elections; all expenses were in cash."
Mullins told investigators last December that Roger J. Peck Jr., a West Seneca businessman, financed neighborhood newspaper ads outside the campaign, including a controversial ad in the Challenger, a black newspaper, that featured a noose and was deemed to have racial implications.
Peck, the president of an energy consulting firm that does business with the town, was Paul Clark's biggest contributor.
Paul Clark and his brother Timothy M., plus campaign treasurer Mark Koller, Peck and Mullins all remain under scrutiny for their roles in the affair, the district attorney said.
On several occasions, he also has said that he is convinced that criminal activity -- not "ineptness" -- lurked behind the Mullins allegations. He also said his office has advised all targets in the probe to obtain legal counsel.
Herbert L. Greenman, Paul Clark's attorney, did not return a call seeking comment. Paul Clark said last year he would not discuss the charges but blamed the situation on Mullins, describing him as an overzealous volunteer engaged in activities unknown to top campaign officials.