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Former Lackawanna councilman avoids jail time for violating residence rule

Former Lackawanna City Councilman William R. Leonard received no jail time for committing official misconduct by lying to public officials about his residency.

Judge James Bargnesi sentenced the 53-year-old collision shop owner to a one-year conditional discharge on Wednesday in Supreme Court.

“People should be able to trust their elected leaders,” said Erie County District Attorney John J. Flynn. “I am committed to investigating, and if necessary prosecuting, any public official who breaks the law. Even though Mr. Leonard will not be serving any jail time, he pleaded guilty to a crime."

Leonard was also ordered to pay a $1,250 fine, said his attorney, Louis P. Violanti.

"It's extremely rare for a defendant to receive jail time under these circumstances," said Violanti. "Lead a law-abiding life and pay the fine."

Prosecutors allowed Leonard to plead guilty to the misdemeanor count instead of facing possible indictment for illegal voting and official misconduct, said John J. Flynn. Leonard's  guilty plea followed a seven-month investigation during which State Police investigators placed a camera on a telephone pole near Leonard's residence to determine he lived in West Seneca, a violation of the Lackawanna City Charter residency requirement for elected officials, Flynn said.

Lackawanna councilman resigns, pleads guilty to residency violation

Flynn said he ordered the probe after concerns about Leonard’s residency were aired during a City Council meeting in March 2018. At that meeting, Leonard denied the allegation raised by an audience member from his seat at the council table.

Leonard resigned from his post on Oct. 31.

"How do you represent a district when you don’t live there? That’s beyond stupidity," said Flynn, immediately after Leonard pleaded guilty in November 2018. By pleading guilty, Leonard waived his right to a grand jury hearing and right to appeal, Flynn said.

Leonard ran unopposed in November 2016 for the 3rd Ward seat that was previously held by restaurateur Joseph Jerge. It marked the first time Leonard served in elected office.

Leonard owns and operates Mucci Collision Services at 1471 Abbott Road. He also owns a rental property on Ridgewood Circle in Lackawanna.

Chuck Jaworski, 69, an autoworker who was first elected to the Lackawanna City Council in 2001, was appointed by lawmakers to fill the 3rd Ward seat vacated by Leonard. Before taking the seat, Jaworski resigned as a commissioner for the Lackawanna Municipal Housing Authority. Jaworski also stepped down from his seat on the Lackawanna Planning Board.

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