NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. (WIVB) — A City of Niagara Falls cop lost his job in May when a hearing officer determined he was not a city resident.
Brian Buchalski, who was hired as a patrol officer in 2013, maintains his chief residence is in the city, in a home he shares with his father. Buchalski said a second home he bought in 2022 in the Town of Niagara is rented to his girlfriend, whose parents were the prior owners.
Yet, city officials and a hearing officer thought otherwise, largely basing their decisions on the fact that two vehicles registered to Buchalski were consistently parked in the driveway of the home in the Town of Niagara.
During an interview with News 4 Investigates, Buchalski said city officials filed the administrative charge against him in retaliation for an extended worker’s compensation claim and his hostile workplace complaint with the state, which alleges superiors bullied and harassed him over a work-related injury.
He said city officials went to great lengths to harass and terminate him during his two-and-a-half-year stint on a worker’s compensation claim, including having the superintendent of the police department, a captain, and at least four members of the narcotics division run surveillance on Buchalski for hours at a time.
As a result, Buchalski filed a notice of claim against the city, signaling his intent to sue for abuse of power and unlawful retaliation. The claim is in addition to the hostile workplace complaint he filed with the state.
“They’re using narcotics detectives to follow a guy around in their official vehicles, and it’s a complete waste of taxpayer money,” said attorney Anthony Rupp, who represents Buchalski in the civil matter against the city. “It’s an utter disgrace, really, for the City of Niagara Falls that they are going about it this way.”
Both Police Superintendent John Faso and Niagara Falls Mayor Robert Restaino, who took office in January 2020 on a platform of “better fiscal management”, declined interview requests.
In a statement, the Office of the Mayor said Buchalski filed the notice of claim while the administrative process for the residency issue was still pending, and characterized him as “disgruntled.”
“Mr. Buchalski’s allegations are completely without merit. The investigation and hearing related to Mr. Buchalski’s alleged non-residency were lawfully conducted and pursued in furtherance of the City’s interest in enforcing its residency law.”
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Luke Moretti is an award-winning investigative reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 2002. See more of his work here.