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Constable claims being blacklisted

The town's Republican factions continue to throw elbows at each other, as a constable running for councilman claims he was blacklisted from work for political reasons.

Craig M. Schultz filed a notice of claim against the town in late May, charging that a fellow constable wanted to call him to fill in on an assignment and was prevented from doing so by a superior.

The notice is a mandatory preliminary to filing a lawsuit against the town.

The town Republican Committee is controlled by the faction that supports current Supervisor Robert B. Cliffe and is hostile to his predecessor, Timothy E. Demler.

The GOP committee endorsed Cliffe and incumbent Councilmen Larry L. Helwig and Gilbert G. Doucet for re-election this fall. Schultz, in a news release announcing his run for councilman, blasted the Cliffe administration as "a club of lies and deceit."

"He's one of Tim's buddies. It's another way to hurt the town," Cliffe said of Schultz's notice.

Schultz claimed when he announced his candidacy that he was demoted from sergeant to regular constable. But head constable Robin R. Zastrow wrote in a letter to The Buffalo News that Schultz never was a sergeant, and the title was bestowed on him by Demler as a joke playing off the character Sgt. Schultz on the 1960s TV comedy "Hogan's Heroes."

"He never received any pay differential. He never had any authority over the other constables," Town Attorney Robert O'Toole said.

"If there was a sergeant in the constable force, there would have been a record of that," Cliffe said. "Only the board can change titles. Only the board can hire and fire."

David W. Polak, Schultz's attorney, said the town paid for business cards that said "sergeant"' and "bought him a uniform with sergeant stripes on it."

"He bought them himself," Cliffe said.

Polak asserted that the decision not to call Schultz in for work dates back to last August, when Schultz won a lawsuit that reversed a Niagara County Board of Elections decision to kick him off the ballot in the GOP committeeman primary. Schultz lost the primary.

Since then, although Schultz was included on the list of 12 town constables appointed by the Town Board at its January meeting, he hasn't been called in to work, Polak said.

The weekend after he filed his notice of claim, Schultz was called for an assignment, which Polak said he couldn't take because of a commitment to a juvenile diabetes fundraiser.

"It shows they're aware they're jerking the gentleman around," Polak said.

"One-hundred percent deny," Cliffe said when asked if he gave orders to keep Schultz from working.

Polak said he thought the head constable was the person who barred the other constable from calling Schultz as a replacement for a Feb. 26 assignment.

O'Toole said Schultz will have to be questioned under oath by the town insurance company's attorneys before he files an actual lawsuit. O'Toole said that likely means the town will have to pay another $5,000 insurance deductible to retain counsel.

It did so in a suit filed by Demler accusing board members of slandering him in 2009 campaign literature. Demler criticized the use of the town's insurance company, saying the suit didn't pertain to town business.

e-mail: tprohaska@buffnews.com

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