Buffalo Billion felon candidate for county job

A felon who played a central role in the Buffalo Billion scandal is now a finalist to land a job as the public face of Niagara County government.

Kevin Schuler is one of two candidates county legislators are scheduled to interview Monday for the job of public information officer, who acts as spokesman for county government and fields media requests.

The county’s 2020 budget proposes the PIO job pay $79,003 a year. The new salary amounts to a nearly $10,000 raise.

Schuler was the longtime political fixer for Louis Ciminelli, a prominent developer and influential Republican until his fall from grace. Schuler’s testimony helped the federal prosecutors convict Ciminelli on charges related to a bid-rigging scandal that stained Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Buffalo Billion economic initiative.

Prosecutors said Ciminelli’s company fraudulently obtained the $20 million contract to manage the construction of the Tesla plant in South Buffalo.

Schuler was indicted for his role in the scheme, as was Ciminelli and Alain Kaloyeros, the SUNY Polytechnic official who quarterbacked the project for the state.

Both were found guilty. Ciminelli was sentenced to 28 months in prison and a $500,000 fine, but has appealed the ruling. Kaloyeros appealed his conviction, as well.

Schuler copped a plea in May 2018 to two felony counts of wire fraud and served as the prosecution’s star witness in the trial. He avoided prison and was instead sentenced to 400 hours of community service.

The hiring decision will be made by an interview committee composed of lawmakers from the Niagara County legislature. Republicans hold an 11-4 majority.

Investigative Post learned of Schuler’s pending interview through a notice sent to members of the interview committee. Peter Lopes, the county’s Human Resources director, declined to comment. Schuler was not immediately available for comment.

The other candidate for the job, Jason Meyers, was elected to a town council seat in Lewiston last month on the Republican and Conservative lines. He takes office next month.

The PIO job was previously held by Douglas Hoover, who was hired in February. The Niagara County interviews are the first public sign he intends to leave the job.

Hoover’s conduct has been called into question. He sent a re-election notice for outgoing legislature Chairman Keith McNall, R-Lockport, from a county computer through a county email address in September.

McNall has been largely mum about the matter, but in one public statement described the distribution of the notice as prohibited by the county’s Code of Ethics and denied his own involvement.

Hoover has also declined to speak publicly about issuing the McNall campaign material.