A Canadian businessman has filed a notice of claim against the city for loss of reputation, violation of civil rights and invasion of privacy resulting from a police check he said was conducted by Mayor James C. Galie.
Galie, a 30-year police veteran and former second in command of the city's police force, denied Monday that he had Farsad Kiani, a Canadian electronics executive planning to open an office here, checked out by police agencies.
In his notice, which is the initial step to filing a lawsuit, Kiani claims that "Mayor James C. Galie informed me that he (either individually or through the auspices of the City of Niagara Falls) conducted an unlawful criminal investigation into my personal and business affairs either through the police and or the FBI or CIA." He said Galie conducted the investigation without justification or Kiani's authorization and subsequently disclosed the "information gleaned" to Corporation Counsel Robert P. Merino, City Administrator Anthony J. Restaino, members of the city's Community Development Department and "unknown others."
"He interrogated me about aspects of my personal and business life in front of several people and disclosed information to the public by way of newspaper articles," Kiani's claim stated.
He is claiming damages including loss of business and professional reputation, invasion of privacy, violation of civil rights, loss of potential business clients and loss of business income.
Kiani was interested in opening an electronics repair plant here but left "very angry" from a January meeting with Galie, Restaino and Larry Krizan, director of community development, City Councilwoman Connie M. Lozinsky said at the time. The next day, Kiani faxed a demand for an apology to Galie and local newspapers. Galie called reporters in to tell them why he would not apologize.
Galie said "something" had come to his attention that, as mayor, he had to check out. He said he raised questions about the undisclosed matter to Kiani in his office with Restaino present.
Galie said Kiani had insisted on meeting with Galie alone. Galie said he has a policy of not meeting with prospective developers alone.
On Monday, Galie also said that the city administration had denied a Freedom of Information request by Ms. Lozinsky about the alleged police investigation. He declined further comment because of the pending lawsuit.
Merino said Kiani's claim is "the kind of case we consider being routine, more of a misunderstanding than anything. But, certainly, Mr. Kiani is welcome to pursue any rights he has."
Ms. Lozinsky, a lawyer, said she has represented Kiani in the past, but has distanced herself now that he is suing the city because of a potential conflict of interest with her position as a councilwoman. Kiani said he filed the notice of claim before the statute of limitations ran out to protect his rights while a Buffalo civil rights law firm he has retained looks into the matter. Kiani said he believes Galie's treatment of him was the result of a "problem" between Galie and Ms. Lozinsky, "my immigration lawyer."
"Mr. Galie shouldn't have done what he did. It was not right. It was not proper. He should not chase people out of town . . . How would other businessmen come there to invest. There is no economic security," Kiani said.
Kiani, president of Ensil Canada Ltd., an electronics firm in the Toronto suburb of Richmond Hill, is looking for a U.S. location for Ensil's subsidiary company, Electronics Circuit Repair and Technology Center. Niagara Falls was Kiani's first choice because of its proximity to the border, although he also was looking at sites in other states.
Kiani said Monday he is "100 percent" set to open a sales office in Wheatfield or Lewiston by July 1. The office would employ 10-20 people at first and hiring already has begun. He said he has joined the Niagara Falls Area Chamber of Commerce.
He said opening a repair plant at this time doesn't seem feasible because of the lack of a qualified labor pool. He said he would have to bring employees in from other parts of the country because "Niagara County at this time not known for high tech."