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CITY TO PROBE OFFICIAL'S FLAP OVER SHIRT EXCHANGE

An apparent three-dollar misunderstanding over the price of a shirt at a suburban shopping mall has cast a shadow over Peter A. Filocamo's tenure as the city's $55,000-a-year chief fiscal officer.

Mayor James C. Galie and City Administrator Anthony J. Restaino said Monday that they had asked the city Police Department to join with the Niagara County Sheriff's Department in an investigation into circumstances under which Filocamo tried to exchange a shirt on Aug. 10 in the Bon-Ton store in Summit Park Mall in Wheatfield.

No charges have been filed in the incident, but the mayor and the city administrator quoted from a Sheriff's Department report that said Filocamo had given Bon-Ton officials a statement admitting that he had committed a larceny and agreeing to stay out of the store for a year.

Filocamo told The Buffalo News that the incident was a misunderstanding. "I did not do anything wrong," he said. "I signed a form, but I don't recall everything that it said. I'm embarrassed about it, but I didn't intentionally admit any larceny."

The alleged admission was not attached to the Sheriff's Department investigative report, which was headed "petit larceny."

Filocamo explained that he had received a shirt with a button-down collar as a gift. "I don't wear that type of shirt, and I took it in to exchange it," he said.

He said he picked out a different shirt that cost three dollars less, and a clerk gave him the three dollars' difference. As he left the store, Filocamo said, security personnel confronted him and accused him of stealing the shirt since he had no receipt for the button-down shirt that he had turned in during the exchange.

He said he signed what probably was a release form and agreed to stay out of the store after a clerk explained that it was a routine form that would end the matter. Filocamo said he was not sure whether that form contained an admission of a larceny, "but I did not admit anything; it was a misunderstanding." He said he returned the three dollars and the new shirt, and left the store with the shirt that he had in the first place.

The mayor said he discussed the situation briefly with Filocamo on Monday afternoon. Filocamo told The Buffalo News later that he planned to report for work today in City Hall as usual. "I plan to keep on doing my job," he said.

Restaino, the city administrator, said Monday that the city administration would take "appropriate" action after the investigation is finished.

Filocamo was appointed city controller in February 1997, after having served as acting controller since October 1996. Before that, he was the city's deputy controller.

The controller is the city's chief fiscal officer, and he is responsible for a municipal budget amounting to nearly $120.3 million this year.

Regarding Filocamo's future in city government, Galie said: "We will make whatever decision has to be made after the police investigation is over. We will take whatever action is necessary."

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