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Top officials leave Buffalo Diocese posts amid controversy

George Richert.

Buffalo Diocese spokesman George Richert is leaving the job, as calls intensify for Bishop Richard J. Malone to step down amid a scandal over his handling of sex abuse and sexual harassment allegations.

The diocese announced on its website this afternoon that Richert will step down as director of communications, effective Sept. 7.

Richert, a former television reporter, had been in the post since 2016. The announcement followed recent calls for Malone to resign from Rep. Brian Higgins, Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, and others.

"I am extremely grateful to George for his counsel during his tenure with the diocese, especially in these tumultuous times," Malone said in the statement on the diocese's website. "George was a valued member of my leadership team, respected in the community, and a gentleman of high integrity. I wish him the very best as he pursues other opportunities."

Malone also said he would announce an interim diocesan spokesperson and search for a new communications director.

Richert is the third key staff member in the central offices of the diocese to leave in recent weeks. Also stepping down were Malone's administrative assistant, Siobhán O'Connor, and his vicar general and moderator of the curia, the Rev. Mark Noonan, who resigned from that post after three months and returned to work in a parish.

Malone selected the Rev. Peter Karalus, pastor of St. John Paul II Church in Lake View, to become the next vicar general and moderator of the curia, effective Sept. 10. The bishop also hired Patricia Baez as his administrative assistant.

Prior to taking the diocesan job, Richert spent 17 years as a reporter at WIVB-TV, and five years as a reporter at WBEN-AM Radio before that.

Richert, 50, left WIVB-TV in February 2016. That same month, the award-winning local TV reporter told Buffalo News TV columnist Alan Pergament that the business had greatly changed over the past decade and he was ready for a new challenge.

"After years and years, the adrenaline rush of chasing news faded away. Not only did the news chase get less exciting for me, the little changes would just frustrate me a little bit more. And I think because I was getting older," Richert said.

At the time, Richert was sardonic about his exit from the local TV news business.

"I'd say I am going out at the pinnacle of my career. Last year, when I got the Pinnacle Award from the Buffalo Broadcasters, I joked that 'it’s all downhill from here,' " he said.

In making the move to the Catholic Diocese, Richert succeeded former WBEN reporter and anchor Kevin Keenan. Keenan served as spokesman for the diocese for many years, then started his own public relations business six years ago. The diocese is one of his clients.

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