Oct 6


Misconduct allegations against ‘Falls mayoral candidate

Police files on Carlton Cain, a retired cop and now GOP candidate, involve multiple complaints about his conduct. He denies allegations and decries "dirty politics."

Carlton Cain, the Republican candidate for mayor of Niagara Falls, was investigated at least twice on charges of misconduct while serving on the city’s police force before retiring in 2019.

Charges that are a matter of public record include his efforts to retrieve his stolen police weapon and allegations that he removed files on him compiled by the department’s Internal Affairs unit.

Cain, in an interview with Investigative Post, denied removing his Internal Affairs records. The department’s investigation of the allegation reached no conclusion. 

He was docked three days pay involving the gun incident.

A third matter involved a woman denied a job who sued the city alleging Cain blocked her hiring after she rebuffed his romantic advances. The city settled the lawsuit for $36,000, according to a 2019 Internal Affairs report. 

Cain, in an interview, denied any wrongdoing.

According to the 2019 report, another woman lodged an Internal Affairs complaint against Cain alleging domestic violence. The records do not date the complaint, and there was no record of it in Cain’s Internal Affairs file, according to the 2019 report.

Cain said he does not recall any such allegation.

Cain, who is challenging incumbent Democrat Robert Restaino in the Nov. 7 general election, accuses his opponent of playing dirty politics. He questions why his Internal Affairs record has become a subject of interest so soon before the election and says the mayor and Police Chief John Faso recently summoned two of his friends to their offices and told them that his personnel record would become public.

“The current mayor and the police chief are engaging in activities that raise serious ethical and legal concerns,” Cain wrote on his campaign’s Facebook page. “They are using their official positions to interfere with the political opponent of the mayor, me, a retired deputy chief of police.” 

Neither Restaino nor Faso responded to a request for comment.

Retrieval of stolen gun

Cain spent 29 years on the Niagara Falls Police Department, including 20 years in Internal Affairs, before retiring in 2019 as a deputy chief.

Cain acknowledges that he paid $800 to get his pistol back from a suspected heroin dealer in 2007 after it was stolen during a burglary of his apartment. The report on that incident should have been part of his Internal Affairs file, according to the 2019 investigation, but was missing. Just one file on a minor incident was present, according to the 2019 internal investigation.

Instead of notifying the department about the purloined pistol, as required by policy, Cain drove a woman who allegedly helped plan the burglary to the dealer’s house in Buffalo and sent her inside with the money, according to Internal Affairs files. She returned to his car with the weapon. 

Cain said he wouldn’t do the same thing today, but back then, it was the right call. 

“In this environment, I would turn it in; in that environment, I would do the same,” Cain said. “We just look at things differently. … I saw it as an opportunity to get a gun off the street.” 

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The pistol incident came to light when people familiar with the burglary were stopped by police and revealed the theft in hopes of lenient treatment, according to Cain and Internal Affairs files. Cain said he’d promised that no one would get arrested if he got his gun back. 

“When I found out it was stolen, I had an opportunity to get it back,” Cain told Investigative Post. “But I had to make the devil’s promise that I wouldn’t turn in the person who told me it was stolen, and who had it.” 

Other allegations of misconduct

Capt. Angela Munn, formerly a lieutenant in Internal Affairs, remembered seeing Cain’s file and recalled it as “quite large,” according to the 2019 investigation into allegations of missing files. According to the 2019 investigation, Munn recalled taking a report from a woman regarding domestic violence allegations against Cain that should have been in his Internal Affairs file.

Cain told Investigative Post that he doesn’t recall any domestic violence allegations against him.

Accusations that led to the lawsuit that resulted in the city paying $36,000 to the woman who accused Cain of preventing her hiring should have been in the Internal Affairs file, as well, according to the 2019 investigation, but were missing. 

Cain denies any wrongdoing.

A different woman, once Cain’s girlfriend, told Capt. Kelly Rizzo, who led the 2019 Internal Affairs investigation, that she found a box in Cain’s closet containing police records involving him in 2016. The woman said she took some of the documents. According to the 2019 investigation, the papers included missing Internal Affairs files. 

“Not only is it obvious the files are missing but it is an obvious fact that they were removed by Cain himself, as they were then discovered in his apartment by a civilian … who still has them in her possession,” Rizzo wrote in the 2019 report. 

Cain denied having Internal Affairs files at his home. 

“This is the first time I’m hearing that,” said Cain, who obtained the 2019 Internal Affairs file on Thursday, the same day as the city gave it to Investigative Post pursuant to a Freedom of Information Law request. 

“I wouldn’t have those files in my closet.” 

Cain told Investigative Post it’s possible that he might have had a copy of the burglary report from the gun theft or documents he was given during the Internal Affairs investigation. Such records, he said, can leave police offices. 

No conclusion to investigation

In 2019, Cain was one of three applicants for the job of police chief. According to Internal Affairs files, retired police officers contacted City Administrator Nick Melson, saying Cain had a “troubled past” and should not be promoted to chief.

Just one report involving a minor complaint determined unfounded was in Cain’s internal affairs file when Melson asked to see reports, according to the 2019 Internal Affairs file. Rizzo, now retired, concluded in his report that Cain had taken files that should have been in Internal Affairs file when Melson requested them. 

“There is no other alternative in the matter … than to deem it sustained,” Rizzo wrote in his 2019 report on missing files. “Due to the nature of the facts surrounding this case there was no reason to interview Cain.” 

Besides not interviewing Cain, Rizzo didn’t speak with nine officers, active and retired, who had access to the files, according to a 2019 memo from then police chief Thomas Licata, now retired. He wrote that the lack of interviews precluded reaching a conclusion in the case.

Licata also wrote that no one checked to see if the files allegedly missing had simply been misplaced.

“This investigation comes down to missing documents and an assumption that Carlton Cain took them,” Licata wrote. “While that is all together possible, I am not comfortable sustaining that charge based on the investigation presented.”

And so Licata drew no conclusion. 

“If he [Cain] were still here, I would order further investigation into this matter,” Licata wrote. “These accusations are extremely serious and have the weight to seek termination through (civil service proceedings). Therefore at the time of this correspondence, I will refrain from drawing a conclusion of sustained, not sustained, unfounded or exonerated.” 

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Investigators and police brass typically decide whether allegations are sustained, meaning accusations have been proven true; unfounded, meaning there is no credible evidence or allegations are demonstrably untrue; exonerated, meaning accusations have been proven false; or not sustained, meaning there is insufficient evidence to determine the truth of allegations. 

Licata also wrote that Rizzo had not completed the investigation within 30 days, as required. Internal Affairs files show that Rizzo wrote his report 11 days after the investigation began. Another document shows that the file was turned over to Licata nearly three months after then acting police chief Michael Trane, Licata’s predecessor, ordered the investigation. 

Licata declined comment. Trane didn’t respond to an interview request. 

Cain, who once commanded the Internal Affairs division, said there’s no requirement that targets be interviewed, but that officers under suspicion must be notified when they are under investigation, and that didn’t happen in his case. He also said that investigators should have interviewed everyone who had access to internal affairs files. 

“As an investigator, you don’t have to go to investigator school to realize that you have to talk to everyone,” Cain said. 

 Cain said he’s not convinced any files are missing.

“I don’t even know if the files existed,” he said.

The 2019 investigation, Cain said, was launched because the city feared he might take legal action if he wasn’t named police chief.

“You’ve got to understand: I spent 20 years in internal affairs. I know a hit piece when I see one.” 

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