Mayor Brown keeping his distance from Grassroots probe

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – In the wake of a raid on the influential political club, Grassroots, Inc., Thursday, Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown said he is still a member of the East Side group, but has no knowledge of why the FBI, State Police, and the Internal Revenue Service raided the club’s office and seized records.

“Certainly was shocked by it, was very surprised by it,” was the mayor’s answer when asked about the raid.

The East Side political club has been credited as the force behind Brown’s ascension to mayor, and Crystal Peoples-Stokes election to the State Assembly, and Barbara Miller Williams as an Erie County legislator. County Legislator Betty Jean Grant has also been a member.

There were actually three locations targeted by the FBI, State Police, and the IRS: Grassroots’ offices on Genesee Street, the Urban Chamber of Commerce, on Main Street, where Grassroots founder Maurice Garner maintains an office, and Garner’s home and business office on Meech Street.

Brown commented on his relationship with Grassroots and Garner, “I am still a member of Grassroots and I am a close friend of Maurice Garner’s.” When asked if he has talked with Garner recently, Brown said, “I have not spoken to him in the last few days.”

Maurice Garner is also a close associate of political operative Steve Pigeon, whose offices were raided by state and federal authorities two years ago, but the mayor seemed to refer to his friendship with Pigeon in the past tense.

“Certainly Steve Pigeon was a friend. I have not spoken to Steve Pigeon in a very long time.”

Maurice Garner has not been charged, or even named by authorities, in connection with the raids. While County Legislator Betty Jean Grant was a member of Grassroots twenty years ago, Grant said when she elected to the Buffalo school board, Common Council, and as a county lawmaker, it was without Grassroots’ support.

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