West Seneca police lodged departmental misconduct charges against a lieutenant in a continuing probe of cocaine trafficking by the owner of a popular tavern in the town, police officials confirmed today.
Police Chief Bruce W. Manning acknowledged today that Desk Lt. James O'Connor, 39, has been served with departmental charges. But Manning refused to discuss the nature of the case or the potential penalties O'Connor faces.
O'Connor has been out of work on paid sick leave for the past five months and hasn't been accused of criminal activity, law enforcement sources said. Officials declined to describe what his ailment is.
But authorities are questioning admitted cocaine trafficker George Ryan, 59, operator of the popular Ryan's Blackthorne Pub, 721 Center Road, about O'Connor's possible links to activity at that bar, according to law enforcement sources close to the case.
Ryan, whose sentencing on felony cocaine charges was adjourned today in Erie County Court, is cooperating in the inquiry in an effort to reduce the potential prison term he faces on his Dec. 5 plea.
Ryan is free on bail and faces loss, on paper, of his interest in the bar because of his drug dealing. Ryan currently faces a prison term of from one to 25 years, depending on reports County Judge Joseph P. McCarthy receives from authorities.
Ryan was indicted last June following a probe into repeated drug dealing at his tavern.
Manning and spokesmen for the Erie County district attorney's office refused to comment on Ryan's participation in the departmental inquiry.
O'Connor, a member of the department for 12 years, is on medical leave with full pay for undisclosed reasons, Manning said.
"It would be improper for me to comment at this stage, but charges have been filed," Manning said.
Thomas J. Casey, O'Connor's lawyer, also declined to comment.
Ryan's wife, Jeanne Ryan, and the family's lawyers are still attempting to arrange financing to pay the federal government $67,500 so Mrs. Ryan can acquire full ownership of the tavern. Mrs. Ryan has owned a half interest in the bar since its 1974 opening.
The federal government seized George Ryan's half interest because of his links to drug dealing at the bar. The financing effort has been under way since December.
Meanwhile, McCarthy adjourned Ryan's sentencing to Feb. 27. Court sources said the adjournment is linked to Ryan's cooperation in the West Seneca police department case.