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CHEEKTOWAGA CORRUPTION RUNS DEEP, OFFICIAL SAYS

The Cheektowaga sanitation official who was targeted by gunfire into his home Monday night says the attack occurred because corruption runs deeper than the four workers he turned in for a kickback scheme earlier this year.

One man involved in the scam named others when he pleaded guilty to the charge, interim Sanitation Superintendent Frank C. Max Jr. said Tuesday.

Erie County Assistant District Attorney Christopher J. Belling confirmed that Henry R. Krzykowski, 50, of Depew, implicated other town employees but that authorities did not have evidence to charge anyone else.

"Because of that, I'm getting guys shooting at me," Max said Tuesday, while his wife, Donna, juggled calls from relatives, police, media and the insurance company. "(They) wouldn't come after me unless I was onto something. . . . I'm counting on the people in the Town of Cheektowaga to wonder what's going on here and why someone would try to kill me over a minor incident."

Cheektowaga Supervisor Dennis H. Gabryszak said Tuesday that he has never seen any evidence that the scam reached further than the four laborers.

"If he's got something there to prove it, bring it forward, and we'll follow up on it," he said. "If he's got something factual, let us know."

Kevin Glascott, a garbage truck driver and president of the union representing sanitation workers, declined to comment on Max's assertion that the corruption in the department runs deeper.

Neither Max nor his wife was wounded, but the buckshot missed Max by feet as it tore through walls and windows. Lt. Cheryl Rucinski, a police spokeswoman, said investigators do not yet know the motive.

Known for his aggressive and highly confrontational management style, Max has shaken up the Sanitation Department since being named interim chief in February. He has vowed to cut overtime and has called for union concessions.

Within days of his appointment, Max said, he was approached by several workers convinced that he wanted to change things. He said they told him of a continuing kickback scam by garbage collectors.

Instead of a business paying the town a fee to empty its dumpsters, some garbage collectors would do it secretly, the workers said, and the business would then give the collectors money or free food or merchandise.

Max told the district attorney's office of the allegations, and four men were charged.

Andrew Terranova, 52, was sentenced in State Supreme Court on Monday to 50 hours of community service, ordered to pay $6,000 in restitution and fined $1,000. As part of his guilty plea to petit larceny, he also had to resign, three years short of retiring.

Within hours of the sentencing, two shotgun blasts tore through Max's home on Red Oak Drive, prompting many town employees and officials to wonder whether there is a connection or just a coincidence. Police said they are questioning a number of people, including Terranova and the three others arrested on charges of taking town money.

Police said Terranova told them that he was home with his family when the shotgun blasts were fired about 9 p.m. Monday.

While Terranova and Krzykowski pled guilty to a misdemeanor, the other two men have a hearing scheduled for Jan. 5. Cheektowaga residents Frank Klima of Long Avenue and James Torbicki of Willowlawn Parkway are charged with petit larceny and official misconduct.

With police protecting his home and workers replacing the shattered windows and fixing the damaged walls, Max said that for someone to resort to such an extreme act of violence means that he was been right all along: Corruption in the Sanitation Department goes beyond the four men already charged.

"I'm not backing off from these punks. . . . They made a big mistake," Max said. "I am not going to hide. I'm not going to go in a corner and cower in fear."

The Cheektowaga Sanitation Department by many accounts is wasting thousands or even millions of dollars each year. An article in Tuesday's editions of The Buffalo News detailed how high salaries combined with short workdays and outdated practices make the department highly inefficient.

The article also detailed bloated overtime that Max says he has been trying to cut. However, the major reforms that Max wants to enact would require action by the Town Board and changes in the union contract, which expires at the end of this year.

Max and other town officials said they did not think that there was any connection between the shooting and the article.

News Staff Reporters Lou Michel and Janice L. Habuda contributed to this article.

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