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West Seneca project stirred up political controversy linked to Pigeon

S&R Properties’ $700 million proposal for West Seneca has generated not only financial controversy since 2012, but has also found itself mired in the rough-and-tumble politics of Western New York.

After West Seneca Councilman Eugene P. Hart Jr. said he and Supervisor Sheila M. Meegan were targeted by mailings in the September Democratic primary for asking tough questions about the project, state Board of Elections records showed a familiar financing pattern linked to former Erie County Democratic Chairman G. Steven Pigeon – who once served as S&R’s lobbyist.

Both said the mailings adversely affected their Democratic primary campaigns, which Hart won and Meegan lost, though the supervisor eventually won by running on minor party lines in the November general election.

The Buffalo News reported in September, however, that even though Pigeon no longer lobbies for S&R, Meegan and Hart still charged that he was involved in the mailings.

Meegan contended that Pigeon even told her that he arranged for his associates to steer money to the Progressive Democrats of Western New York, a political committee that sponsored the mailings and is controlled by longtime Pigeon ally Frank C. Max Jr., the former Cheektowaga Democratic chairman.

Campaign finance records indicate the $25,000 Max’s group spent in the West Seneca primary stemmed from a Sept. 9 donation by Pierce National Enterprises of the Seneca Indian Territory in Irving. Max acknowledged in September that the company is linked to businessman Aaron J. Pierce, who has long ties to Pigeon.

Pigeon and longtime associate Steven M. Casey, the former deputy mayor of Buffalo, have been involved in planning Seneca Place – Pigeon as lobbyist and Casey as CEO of the project. Their homes were raided by the FBI, State Police and Attorney General’s Office on May 28 in connection with a probe of local political fundraising.

Nobody has been charged as a result of the raids, but sources familiar with the situation say the investigation into their connection with a local political committee called the WNY Progressive Caucus (with no relation to the Cheektowaga committee) remains active.