Sheriff Gary Maha was on vacation last week when The Batavian sought a response from him on allegations raised by Larry Andolina, attorney for Greg Phillips, that Sgt. Steve Mullen had mishandled the investigation of a bookmaking case involving two city firefighters.
Phillips is one of three men, including another former city firefighter, who admitted in December to bookmaking (taking sports bets).
This afternoon we received the following response from Maha:
Allegations were made through defense counsel (Mr. Andolina) that Steve Mullen had in the past placed bets with his client. Information was that these alleged bets were placed four to five years ago.
As you know, placing a bet is not illegal, however if this was true, it would be a violation of our rules and regulations.
Based upon these allegations, we initiated an internal investigation. Steve Mullen retired prior to the completion of our internal investigation, therefore this became a moot issue as I could not discipline him if these allegations were sustained. All personnel matters are confidential.
Phillips and co-defendants Brian Bordinaro and Lance Engel each entered guilty pleas Dec. 11 to a Class A misdemeanor charge of promoting gambling, 2nd. Last Tuesday, they each learned that Judge Robert Balbick intends to give them weekend community work details as part of their sentences.
After the hearing, Andolina spoke with the media and said the reduced charge (the bookies were originally charged with the Class B felony of enterprise corruption) was the result of the Sheriff's Office mishandling the case. Pressed for proof, Andolina mentioned Mullen's retirement, but declined to produce any other evidence.
Later that evening WIVB aired a story that more specifically accused Mullen of placing bets, but it was scant on details and offered no factual information to back up the allegation. The story was based entirely on anonymous sources.