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Town of Tonawanda wants to fire officer under investigation by DA

For the second time in three weeks, a Town of Tonawanda police officer is in trouble over a traffic accident.

Officer Howard M. Scholl III is facing termination from the department and is under investigation by the Erie District Attorney’s Office for lying about his role in a Jan. 19 crash.

And Lt. Corey J. Flatau is on unpaid suspension and is charged with driving while intoxicated after a Dec. 27 accident in Wheatfield.

Supervisor Joseph Emminger said he understands the questions this raises about the conduct of the department’s officers.

However, Emminger said, "These are two officers out of 102. So, we're talking about a few individuals. Ninety-nine, 98 percent of the officers in that department are good.”

Town officials moved to fire Scholl after a disciplinary hearing on Wednesday. He is on unpaid leave and has 10 days to challenge his termination.

"We felt this was warranted due to the police officer's actions," Emminger said in an interview.

District Attorney John J. Flynn is investigating Scholl at the request of the Town Board.

Town Board members and Police Chief Jerome C. Uschold III were particularly concerned by the fact Scholl initially lied about who was driving at the time of the accident, Emminger said.

A draft accident report completed in the hours after the crash identifies Scholl's wife, Aimee, as the driver of their vehicle, but an amended accident report, completed 2 1/2 weeks later on Feb. 7, states Howard Scholl was behind the wheel.

The crash took place at 11:50 p.m. Jan. 19 at Englewood and St. Johns avenues, near the Howling Rooster Cafe, according to accident reports obtained by The Buffalo News.

Scholl, 36, and his wife were driving home from an awards dinner for the Police Department's SWAT team at Sinatra's Restaurant on Kenmore Avenue, Emminger said.

Howard Scholl was driving north on St. Johns in a Chevrolet Suburban SUV and a second vehicle – an Uber driver and her fare – was heading west on Englewood.

Scholl tried to brake at the stop sign but slid into the path of the sedan on Englewood, damaging both vehicles. The accident reports cite snowy and icy conditions as factors in the crash.

The driver and passenger in the second vehicle were taken to the hospital, with the passenger suffering a broken nose, Emminger said.

Howard Scholl was not asked to perform a field sobriety test, and he and his wife were allowed to drive off that night, the supervisor said.

"The Town of Tonawanda Town Board has asked our office to investigate the matter, and we are conducting an investigation," said Kait Munro, Flynn’s spokeswoman.

The Town Board voted Monday to authorize Emminger, or an unnamed department head, to act against unspecified employee misconduct. The resolution doesn't describe the employee – or the misconduct – but states that it occurred on or around Jan. 19.

Emminger said the Town Board met behind closed doors for 2 1/2 hours Monday to discuss Scholl's actions that night and how best to respond.

"Everyone on the Town Board felt they were serious enough to warrant termination," Emminger said.

Uschold and Town Attorney Mario A. Giacobbe represented the town at Wednesday morning's hearing. Scholl was represented by Paul Weiss, the attorney for the Tonawanda Police Club union, and attorney Barry Covert.

"Our internal investigation revealed that violations of our professional standards of conduct and departmental rules and regulations did occur," Uschold said in a statement Wednesday.

Uschold said he couldn't comment further because the incident remains under criminal investigation, a probe he supports in the interest of transparency.

Weiss declined comment for this article saying this is a personnel matter.

This is not the first time Scholl's conduct has drawn the attention of prosecutors. On Aug. 13, 2016, an off-duty Scholl got into a fight in the restroom at Mooney's Sports Bar & Grill on Military Road in the town. The other man involved in the altercation suffered a deep cut when he struck the bathroom's ceramic sink.

The owner told The News at the time that the sink shattered and the man was bleeding profusely. He later underwent surgery at Erie County Medical Center.

Town police placed Scholl on administrative leave pending an internal investigation into the incident. Lt. Thomas Haynes, a department spokesman, said he couldn't comment on what departmental discipline Scholl received from the fight.

Emminger said the 2016 fight did not factor into the town's decision to fire Scholl because he was not criminally charged in that matter.

Munro said the District Attorney's Office investigated but ultimately did not charge Scholl "because there was not enough evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law."

Three weeks before Scholl’s crash, Flatau, 37, was arrested at 12:15 a.m. Dec. 27 shortly after the car he was driving veered across the highway on Nash Road at Niagara Falls Boulevard in Wheatfield and struck a mailbox, according to the Niagara County Sheriff’s Office.

Flatau was charged with DWI after he fell onto the hood of his car during a sobriety test.

The criminal charges are pending against Flatau. He is on a 30-day, unpaid suspension from the department, Emminger said.

'You got me': Off-duty Town of Tonawanda police lieutenant charged with DWI

 

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