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Falls Housing Authority board chairman steps down as probe continues

NIAGARA FALLS – Two months after the Niagara Falls Housing Authority Board of Commissioners removed longtime director Stephanie W. Cowart, board chairman Jeffrey M. Paterson has announced his resignation.

Paterson, who is not under any scrutiny, told the board at its meeting on Tuesday that he does not have the time needed to dedicate to the ongoing internal investigation of Cowart.

Paterson, the executive director of Empower, submitted his resignation as both board member and chairman effective the end of the day Tuesday. He will be replaced by the former chairman and board member, the Rev. Kevin Dobbs, pastor of Christ Redemption Tabernacle Church.

The board continued to meet in executive session to discuss the status of Cowart, who was placed on indefinite paid administrative leave to address a personnel issue.

The details of her removal have remained under wraps, but according to Housing Authority attorney Jason Cafarella, the FBI has confirmed that “only one employee at the Niagara Falls Housing Authority is the focus of their investigation.”

The Housing Authority Board of Commissioners has hired the firm of Bond, Schoeneck and King of Buffalo, which specializes in labor and employment litigation, for the investigation. Attorney Jonathan Fellows met with the commissioners on Tuesday.

Washington, D.C. attorney Michael A. Battle of Barnes and Thornburg confirmed by telephone that he has been hired to represent Cowart. Battle is a partner in the firm, which focuses on commercial and civil litigation, white-collar criminal matters and appeals. He previously served as U.S. Attorney for the Western District of New York from 2002-05.

“We are working with (Cowart) to get her through the process,” said Battle, who noted officials are still awaiting the outcome of the internal investigation.

Paterson said in July that a lengthy investigation is anticipated.

email: nfischer@buffnews.com

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