City Hall transgressions cost taxpayers

A normal day at the office for Buffalo's Common Council: spending big money to settle claims of miscues — and worse — by city employees. The tab Tuesday was over $500,000.

On Wednesday, the Buffalo Common Council approved $510,000 in payments to settle nine personal injury claims filed against the city.

A third of those lawsuits were against Buffalo police, whose missteps frequently cost the taxpayers big: almost $12 million in one five-year period, according to an Investigative Post analysis.

But cops aren’t the only city employees who mess up on the job.

The biggest payout approved yesterday by the Council’s Claims Committee was $225,000 to Freddie Ingram. In November 2018, a Buffalo parking inspector, Jumanne Pitts, backed his city-owned vehicle the wrong way down a street and collided with Ingram’s car, damaging it and injuring Ingram. Wednesday the Claims Committee agreed to settle the lawsuit.

The city also agreed to pay $125,000 to the estate of Nicole Swanson, who was hit by Raymond Sullivan, a city firefighter driving a department vehicle, in March 2017. Swanson was homeless at the time, according to a deposition she gave the court. She died in 2019 but her family kept the lawsuit going. Sullivan retired in 2020.

The three police-related lawsuits start with $50,000 paid to Eitan Stant and Violet Knauss, whose apartment was raided by a team of Buffalo cops in February 2020. 

Stant and Knauss sued all 11 officers — five of them trainees at the time — who took part in the raid, including Officer Karl Schultz and now-retired Lt. Michael DeLong, who between them have been the subject of numerous civil lawsuits. DeLong was the officer in charge and Schultz was first through the door on the raid, which was a mistake, according to the lawsuit, yielding no charges, but ended with Stant committed to ECMC for a psychological evaluation and Knauss locked out of their apartment in the cold.

The city also paid out $44,000 to Darryl Mingo, whose arrest at a Tim Horton’s in downtown Buffalo was the subject of a viral video. (He is misidentified in the Council filings as “Charles,” but it’s Darryl, according to his attorney, who confirmed the settlement.) Mingo had a run-in with a security guard, was eventually arrested and charged with harassment; the charges were later dropped. Mingo alleged police tied him to a chair in the city jail, and refused him food, water, or access to a bathroom for 24 hours. His lawsuit named three officers specifically: Eric Augustyn, Joseph Petronella and Patrick Baggott.

Samantha Crump, a.k.a. Shadayi Walker, sued two Buffalo cops, Nicholas Johnson and Andrew Shea, accusing them of physical harassment, unlawful arrest and detention, and a host of other abuses arising from an encounter in August 2018. The city agreed to pay Crump $18,500 to compensate for her alleged mistreatment.


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Two other settlements approved yesterday, totaling $32,500, were for slip-and-fall lawsuits. 

The city also paid $10,000 to a man whose garage the inspections department ordered to be demolished without due notice to the owner.

The smallest award approved Tuesday was for a bicyclist who was injured in a fall at the corner of Norwood and Auburn in December 2018. He sued the city and Destro Brothers Concrete, which the city had hired to repave the street “multiple times between 2011 and 2018,” according to the lawsuit. The company and the city “created or exacerbated a dangerous condition in the pavement” that led to the fall, the suit claimed.

The city will pay the bicyclist $5,000.

The City of Buffalo is self-insured, which means it  defends itself against lawsuits and taxpayers are on the hook for settlements and judgments against it.