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Ex-building commissioner Bax retires

A former city buildings commissioner who has been on paid leave since federal investigators seized records from the Department of Inspections in July 2009 has retired.

Guy A. Bax submitted paperwork to the state to retire Jan. 1, said Mark Johnson, a spokesman for the state Comptroller's Office, which manages the state retirement system.

Bax, a longtime city inspector, was one of three employees placed on paid administrative leave in 2009 after federal investigators named them in a search warrant application connected to an investigation of Niagara Falls plumbing contractor John J. Gross Jr.

No charges have been filed.

Federal law enforcement officials told The News that the investigation is continuing.

A subpoena from the U.S. Attorney's Office in Buffalo last month sought employee records for the three inspections workers.

The two other employees -- chief plumbing and electrical inspectors George Amendola and Peter Butry -- returned to work in February under an agreement in which they work in a limited capacity.

Bax, according to city records, earned a salary of $56,801 in 2009. He was hired in May 1972. He declined to comment.

Mayor Paul A. Dyster in 2009 stripped Bax of the buildings commissioner title and appointed inspector Dennis Virtuoso, who is also a Niagara County legislator, to head the department.

The inspections office has since been renamed the Department of Code Enforcement.

A search warrant application filed in 2009 stated that agents from the FBI and the Internal Revenue Service were searching for evidence in a wide-ranging probe into Gross' alleged involvement in tax evasion, bid-rigging on plumbing contracts and "corrupt relationships" with some city officials in the Department of Inspections.

Gross has been at the center of several federal investigations. He was convicted of grand larceny and conspiracy in 1974. Gross served prison time again in 1997 after he admitted to racketeering, stealing, bribing public officials and cheating on his taxes.

e-mail: djgee@buffnews.com