Some letters are harder to write than others. My presentencing letter to Judge Buscaglia follows....
While preparing a Show Cause Order to force Jeremy "Wonder Boy" Zellner to comply with the rules of the Erie County Democratic Committee, a certified letter arrived. A plain envelope with no cover letter. In apparent response to a demand letter served on him at an ECDC endorsement meeting......
After having been served multiple demand letters, and failing to respond to any, in clear violation of ECDC rules, Wonder Boy disgorged the following bizarre document (first six pages of 44 displayed):
That's right; red paper, out of order, crooked pages, duplicates, dotted background, cutoffs, etc. This is Wonder Boy's attempt to comply with the rules, but make the information as unreadable and unusable as possible. Obviously it was much more work to do this than just print out a few pages of paper. How can we describe this behavior? Let's try vicious, petty, mean spirited, depraved, and small minded. How about immature, sophomoric, unwise, imprudent, lacking emotional stability? This from a clown who keeps bleating about party unity and blaming all his shortcomings on a tiny divisive element in the Democratic Party. Once again, Zellner has demonstrated that he is not ready to be county chairman or hold any position of responsibility anywhere. Perhaps a Walmart traineeship would do him good?
Last month, after successfully fending off a challenge to Ralph Hernandez' Buffalo School Board nominating petition, I filed a Freedom of Information Law request to see the Erie County Board of Election's logs of people who had examined such petitions and those who had requested copies. A person named Eric Tolbert (nephew of candidate Bernie Tolbert?) had previously filed Specific Objections to the Hernandez petition, claiming, in exquisite detail, that 1,336 signatures were bad. Ralph's petition contains 98 pages and some sample pages are displayed below......
The complete Hernandez petition contains 1,893 signatures, with 1000 required to qualify for a spot on the ballot. The Tolbert Specific Objections detail, line by line, what is alleged to be defective about the signatures on Ralph's petition.....
If the Board of Elections (Commissioners Ralph Mohr and Dennis Ward) had upheld the Tolbert objections, Ralph would have been out of the race unless a judge put him back in. This is all part of the Kabuki Dance which characterizes New York's election laws, advantaging political machines and those in power while disenfranchising independent outsider challenges. It's the same game that Congressman Higgins is currently playing with challenger Eddie Egriu. Attack the newcomer's petition and keep his campaign off balance as long as possible. If the candidates cannot guarantee they will be on the ballot, they cannot raise money or begin the expensive media portion of their campaign. Well healed and incumbent candidates frequently use these techniques.
In order to propound voluminous specific objections, one obviously needs to have access to the petition being challenged and voter records, both of which are maintained and housed by the Board of Elections. The Board has procedures for examining petitions and voter records, including logging in whoever views petitions and voter records or requests document copies. The logs of those who viewed petitions and voter records from April 1 though April 21 follow:
Dave Pfaff, Amy Friedman and Bill Nowakowski are supporting the Quinn/Pierce effort and they didn't challenge Hernandez. Steve Buccilli is an independent newcomer who didn't challenge anyone. Willie Morris is with Grass Roots, an organization opposed to the Unity Coalition which supports Tolbert. Tim LoVallo and I are the Hernandez legal defense team who refuted the Tolbert objections. So Eric Tolbert proffered his extensive and detailed objections without looking at Ralph's petition or the related voter records?!! Maybe he had a copy of Ralph's petition? No, not according to the log of copies requested....
Pfaff did make a copy of the Hernandez petition and he subsequently used it when I contracted with him as a paralegal to examine the Tolbert objections and help refute them. Ohhh.... By now it should be obvious that it is impossible for anyone to accomplish what Objector Tolbert did without a great deal of access to the Hernandez petition and the necessary voter records in the possession of the Board of Elections. So how did he perform this impossible task? Does he have x-ray vision which allows him to see through walls? How about a drone that allows him to access Board records without their knowledge? Maybe divine or alien superbeing intervention?
Maybe there is a more likely explanation. Perhaps the head of the Unity Coalition and Deputy Democratic Elections Commissioner, Champ Eve, had Board staff formulate the objections on government time, using public resources. Using public resources for private political purposes? Never. That would be wrong! Wonder if District Attorney Sedita is still being overzealous in his prosecution of public officials? Stay tuned for more.
Kerry Saunders is an African-American Democratic Party political operative who was recently cited in a Buffalo News article on "big-name backers" in the Buffalo School Board race. Although the BNews article refers to Saunders as "a staff member for State Sen. Tim Kennedy," the Senator's office claims he is not on staff, but part of his election campaign team. Mr. Saunders is registered to vote at 252 Shumway Street in Buffalo's Broadway-Fillmore neighborhood where he is a Democratic County Committee Member for election district Fillmore 20 and its 438 registered Democrats. Saunders fills out his schedule as an employee of the Dennis Ward/Champ Eve team at the Erie County Board of Elections, where he works at the Tri-Main warehouse. In his spare time, Kerry is employed as a volunteer and paid employee of various and sundry political campaigns. In the past, he has been observed simultaneously participating in the campaigns of several competing candidates in the same election, thus earning himself a reputation as a campaign spy or "rat in the woodpile." As Senator Kennedy is currently engaged in a battle for survival with County Legislator Betty Jean Grant who is tightly aligned with the Ward/Eve/Zellner axis of the party, Saunder's employment by Kennedy has to make you wonder who he may be spying on.
A review of public records of campaign contributions and expenditures reveals that Mr. Saunders operates out of two separate addresses: the somewhat rundown 252 Shumway Street and 82 Garden Court in a stylish Amherst neighborhood. See the attached New York State Board of Elections reports which present contributions made and payments received by Saunders:
Saunders was an uninvited attendee at the Progressive Democrats of Western New York annual breakfast in Cheektowaga last Saturday morning, dressed to the nines in a dark business suit. Ever curious about the lifestyles of local big-hitting political movers and shakers, WNY Cam visited Saunders at his Amherst address.......
Erie County Board of Elections records show that Saunders is registered at 252 Shumway Street in Buffalo and has been since 2000 .....
However, Saunders is not in title to 252 Shumway, Cleatis Saunders is......
But there is no Cleatis Saunders registered to vote in Erie County. However, Ernest and Betina Watson are registered to vote at 252 Shumway. Stephanie A. Torres is the owner of record of 82 Garden Court, Amherst, where she is registered to vote as a Republican.
Why should we care about this stuff? First, it is election fraud not to live where you claim when you register to vote and you sign an affidavit stating, "The information above is true. I understand that if it is not true I can be convicted and fined up to $5000 and/or jailed for up to four years." In addition, one can only serve as a Democratic Committeeman in the Assembly District where one is registered. 252 Shumway is in a different Assembly District than 82 Garden Court. If Saunders lives in Amherst, he cannot be a Committeeman in Buffalo. Perhaps more importantly, false registration and party committee participation deprives the people of the affected area of necessary representation.
When we were there, the water line at an abandoned house one door away from 252 Shumway was leaking and flooding the street. I called the problem in to 911. My wife and I are Committee Members in Buffalo Delaware 21, WHERE WE LIVE. We call in water leaks, streetlight outages, pick up dead animals in the streets, and otherwise try to make sure that government services are being properly provided to our neighborhood. We participate in our home owners association, plant trees, and take responsibility for our community. Fillmore 20 is a poor neighborhood with many problems. It needs a committeeman, not someone who lives in the fancy suburbs for his own selfish purposes.
County Legislator Peter Savage had a fundraiser tonight at the K of C on Kenmore Avenue. A bit expensive at $100 a head, but very pleasant and well attended. The usual array of elected and party officials, friends and family, and favor seekers was in attendance. This is the life of the insider, the powerful and their attendants and hangers-on. Excellent chow, beverages and a chance to schmooze with one's peers and superiors in a relaxed venue. An ideal time to network, posture and jockey for advantage.
When the party had to come to a close, Peter looked at the groaning board of food remaining and said, "There are people starving in the world; we can't let this go to waste." Ever the opportunist, I suggested taking the treats to Paradise House. "Great idea," declared the newly minted Third District representative as he helped to pack up boxes and trays of catered food. The WNY Vibe quickly loaded and delivered this offering to Mills Street.
Life has not been kind to the ladies of Paradise House and they are not accustomed to unilateral random acts of kindness from others. Their faces lit up when they saw the unexpected feast that magically appeared. I remember when Democrats cared more about the commonweal and the welfare of people than their own personal advantage. Peter Savage is a Democrat.
Since it was revealed that Cheektowaga Councilmember Charles Markel forfeited his office by being convicted of a crime, there have been a series of fact distorting and spinning articles and letters published by the Buffalo News. See:
Markel has decided to play this out in the court of public opinion, rather than take his chance with a jury of peers. His post conviction story is that he discovered his own error and repaid the money of his own volition. That isn't a crime and it's extremely unlikely that it happened that way. In forty years of practicing law, I have never seen an accidental criminal conviction. It just doesn't work that way. If I have a criticism of Frank Sedita it is that he isn't zealous enough in going after politicians. Frank would never have prosecuted this case if it went down the way Markel now says. But Frank seems reluctant to punch back.
Since it's always difficult to find the truth in the BNews, I thought I would pull the transcript of Markel's admission to committing the crime and sentencing. Here it is in all it's naked glory. Markel is fully informed and cops the plea of his own volition. Read it yourself and make up your own mind.
Erie County Clerk Christopher L. Jacobs has been awarded the 2014 Public Service Award of Excellence by the Judges and Police Conference of Erie County........
Jacobs is regarded as a leading Republican contender for County Executive in 2015. If Jacobs continues to pile up honors for his performance in office, it won't make things any easier for current County Executive Mark Poloncarz. Many Democrats are already referring to Poloncarz as a "one termer."
We interview the Black Prince, Steve Pigeon, at Saturday's Progressive Democrats breakfast.
An obviously bushed Cheektowaga Democratic Chairman Frank Max shared his thoughts following a successful brunch at the Creekside Banquet Facility..... Frank reveals his thoughts on this year's elections, the state of the Democratic Party, involving youth in Democratic Party activities, and his experiences with terrorism.
The Progressive Democrats of Western New York held their annual breakfast in Cheektowaga this morning. WNY Politics discussed the outlook for upcoming political year with Conservative County Chairman, Ralph Lorigo.
Diagram of Robert Gioia's Brain
When Buck Quigley (Associate Editor of a fiscally shaky local weekly) and I attended the Jim Kaskie firing press conference in January, we were stunned to learn that Bobby Gioia actually thinks it's OK for someone to simultaneously be CEO of public and private entities which compete with each other. Can you say conflict of interest boys and girls? As soon as we made it back to our home base (Founding Fathers Pub), I dialed up the New York State Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) and filed a complaint......
You see, as CEO of Erie County Medical Center, a public benefit corporation, Jody Lomeo needed permission to get an outside job raking leaves or bartending at Binky's Saloon on the weekends. Only in the alternate universe of Buffalo Club World could it pass muster for Jody to be CEO of Kaleida as an extra gig. So now Lomeo has resigned at ECMC and moved on to the fiscally and physically nonviable train wreck left by Kaskie at Kaleida Health. Kaleida is a not-for-profit, but Kaskie took home $2.3 million in a good year, so it was extremely profitable for him. This leaves the CEO job open at ECMC and I am clearly the leading contender to fill the post, due to the fact that everyone likes a sweet little old white haired man. The only sticking point is that the $700,000 annual salary will need to be elevated to attract world class talent like me.
Yesterday, Quigley took a much deserved victory lap, and I'm having one too. But I'm also rubbing it in. Yesterday, I filed a number of documents with the Erie County Legislature pointing out that the status of ECMC/Kaleida "collaboration" is murky at best and possibly illegal. Although this has been ignored by local media, the grand deal struck by Judge Curran back in 2008 to merge ECMC and Kaleida into Great Lakes Health has been completely disregarded. The two entities continue as separate organizations, with Great Lakes as some sort of bizarre and nebulous pulpit for Gioia to pontificate from. This violates the Berger Commission mandate which is now New York State law:
" Recommended Action
It is recommended that the facilities controlled by the Erie County Medical Center Corporation and Kaleida Health be joined under a single unified governance structure under the control of an entity other than Erie County Medical Center Corporation, Kaleida Health, or any other public benefit corporation. It is further recommended that this entity consist of a reconstituted single board including representation of Kaleida Health, the Erie County Medical Center Corporation, the University at Buffalo School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, and community leaders." (emphasis added)
Why should anyone care about this arcane nonsense? Well, under a Judge Joe Makowski court decision, the taxpayers of Erie County are liable for the operating losses of ECMC until the end of time and three days more. As an official Erie County taxpayer, I might sleep better if I knew what all this means to my pocketbook.
The gloves came off today in the Democratic Primary Race for Congressional District 26. Emin Eddie Egriu held a press conference at noon outside Buffalo FBI headquarters, calling for a federal investigation of Higgins and his staff:
Does anybody have US Attorney Bill Holchol's email?........... But wait.........
Oops........Looks like Bill's wife, Kathy, was one of the Republicans who helped Higgins dance around like a trained bear for the amusement of Tony Gioia. Can anyone say special prosecutor, boys and girls?
Congressman Brian Higgins brought suit today to throw Emin Eddie Egriu off the ballot in the Democratic Primary on June 24 in Congressional District 26. Oh sure, Higgins name isn't on the lawsuit, but his name is still all over it. The Petitioner is Erich S. Weyant, Executive Director of the Erie County Democratic Committee and employee of ECDC Chairman, Jeremy "Wonder Boy" Zellner. Higgins is one of Zellner's stalwart supporters, especially financially. Weyant's attorney is Jerry Schad, formerly counsel to the now extinct Democratic majority caucus in the County Legislature where he served as Betty Jean Grant's personal election law attorney. Schad is now an Erie County Water Authority Commissioner. You may recall that Mr. Schad was selected as the poorest choice for the job.
The suit is brim full of insane allegations of petition fraud. Most are frivolous, unhinged and tending towards the absurd. Typically they involve incidents where someone put down an incorrect address. In response to this mistake, a Higgins public employee staffer was dispatched to the bad address, snapped a grainy picture and asserted the claim that signatures were being obtained from non-existent houses. The matter has been assigned to the Hon. Joseph Glownia and it is unlikely he will give much credence to this steaming mass of crap. However, the real purpose of this suit is to drain Egriu of funds, distract his campaign efforts and impede his fund raising efforts. Today Egriu issued a press release:
In the words of the late Pat Paulson, "Picky, picky, picky." What Eddie failed to tell you was that nearly all of Higgins' bloated staff has been working around the clock to keep you from having a choice on election day. Chuck Eaton, Theresa Kennedy, Chris Fahey, and Megan Corbett Rizzutto did prodigious amounts of work on this travesty. So did Lyndsey Barnes and Walter Koch, but the latter two haven't been confirmed as Higgins staffers yet. So if you wonder why Congress doesn't get anything done and long to know what "Your Tax Dollars At Work" is buying us, you now have your answers. Remind me to FOIA Higgins office staff timesheets. Sure hope all this junk wasn't done on government time.
An interesting side note is the absence of the New York State Democratic Committee from this effort. What gives there?
As CD-26 is heavily Democratic, the winner of the Primary Election will likely be elected in November. Stay tuned to see if you are going to get a meaningful vote.
Dyngus Day revelers intend to pause today to demand proper funding for women's shelters in Buffalo......
Pardoner in Chief (click here)
For the past 20 years, Erie County has supported women's shelters on the Eastside of Buffalo. Paradise House has been providing services to women who have been released from jail, prison or drug rehab programs and have no place to go. They are given the chance to live in a family-style environment, under caring supervision, for a minimum of six months. Paradise House affords a clean, secure, friendly and supportive environment for homeless or otherwise drug-addicted women. When they have transitioned into more independent living in the apartments provided for them, and have their children with them, they and their children continue to receive support and service until they are ready to be on their own.
The programs and support services Paradise House provides are the necessary encouragement and direction for drug-addicted women to recover from their addictions and reestablish their families. Paradise Opportunities also works with neighborhood, community, city and state representatives to ensure that women and children receive the services they need to live independent, healthy and drug-free lives.
Two other prominent programs are Canaan House and New Life Residential Center. Together they serve about fifty women. Read more here Erie County Cares About Women: April Fools!
Recently, the Poloncarz administration determined that these shelters were improperly funded with money targeted to aid the homeless. Our favorite bureaucrats decided that the shelters needed to seek other income sources. In the last two years their funding has been slashed from $670/resident/month to $170. None of these programs is viable at the current funding level. Erie County Social Services seems content to let them die, merely notifying them that funding would be cut and referring them to the United Way to get assistance in writing grants to somebody for their operating revenues. These are small not-for-profit organizations skilled in providing client services. They pay minimal wages and lack the resources to seek grants for a more sustainable future. For example, the 2012 IRS 990 report for Paradise House indicates that their Executive Director, Rev. Anne P. Paris, is paid $22,000 per year. This compares somewhat unfavorably with our favorite former Kaleida Health (another not-for-profit) CEO, James Kaskie who was paid $2,300,000 per year while he ran the hospital system into the red. It's also a lot less than the average Poloncarz patronage staffer. Reverend Paris would do better with an entry level job at Geico, where she could start at $30,000, with considerably less responsibilities than her current position.
If the residents of these shelters land in the criminal justice system, the cost to taxpayers is about ten times the cost of their programs. At 50 times $500 per month, they need $300,000 in bridge funding to get through the next year and assistance in obtaining more sustainable future funding.
More immediately, the gas heat at Paradise House will be shut off on Monday unless $2500 is paid towards the outstanding bill of $4500. Neither Assemblywoman Peoples-Stokes or Senator Kennedy have indicted a willingness to help. All eleven county legislators, led by Barbara Miller-Williams, are willing to authorize bridge funds from Erie County. BMW took DSS to task last Wednesday.......
It's now in the hands of the Poloncarz administration to initiate a funding request to keep the shelters going. Meanwhile the hat is being passed among community activists, government officials and union leaders to try to come up with the $2500 to keep the heat on. A press conference at 2PM Monday at Paradise House, 144 Mills Street, Buffalo is planned to keep the heat on responsible government officials.
Today the Western New York Politics WNY Cam went to the world famous Broadway Market. While puzzling over a model pig made from a rusted tank and old pipes, our own Stan Ryczaj came across Buffalo City Court Judge candidate, Joseph Jarzembek. The rest is history.......
If you watch closely, ECC President and former Congressman Jack Quinn (purple sweater) photo bombs Joe on his right. Looks like everyone wants to get on WNY Cam. And here's the Pig.........
Cheektowaga Town Attorney Kevin Shenk, today confirmed that Charles Markel is no longer a Councilman. Looks like WNYPolitics was right again. The opinion of outside counsel coincides with that of Mr. Shenk, Erie County DA Frank Sedita and yours truly. Markel vacated his post when he pled guilty and was sentenced last Friday. Mr. Markel's access to town facilities has been terminated and town property in his possession is being retrieved. The opinion of Erie County Elections Commissioner Ralph Mohr that the board must remove Markel is incorrect. Markel, by his conduct removed himself from the board. Thus ends a sorry episode in Cheektowaga history. If Markel wishes to challenge his removal he can bring a lawsuit. Have fun getting around Matter of Holt v Marinelli, which has been previously reported here.
County Executive Poloncarz' operatives appear to be handing out summer jobs on behalf of Mark's personal political campaign. The following email was forwarded to your reporter yesterday.
Jennifer Hibit is a rabid Poloncarz supporter and one of his many county patronage employees. Jerome Schad is the Town of Amherst Democratic Chairman, former counsel to the now extinct Democratic majority in the County Legislature and current Erie County Water Authority Commissioner who has been employed on your dime to represent Poloncarz in the past......
From the time stamp on the Hibit email, it seems this was done during working hours. Is this yet another abuse of public resources to benefit Mr. Poloncarz personal political career? What do you think? I don't know about you, but I am well qualified to clean toilets.
The Cheektowaga Town Council had a working session last night at 6 P.M. Charles Markel was a no show, even though he claims he is still a councilman. All other councilmembers and the town supervisor were present. If Markel thinks he is still a councilman, why didn't he show up to answer Western New York Politics' questions???? Why is he only giving interviews to the BNews and Channel 2? If he has time for interviews, why not do the job he says he still has? Instead, your intrepid reporter was treated to a record short meeting, with a motion made for executive session and our abrupt ejection from the room. Look at those sour faces.....
After a while the town attorney came out to explain....
Kevin Shenk was obviously having a bad day, but that didn't help much. Following the meeting, interviews with councilmembers didn't yield a lot of information. The only thing certain is that Markel never said anything to his fellow board members about his criminal career. They were left to read about his conviction in the newspapers.
On Friday, Cheektowaga Councilman Charles C. "Charlie" Markel copped a plea to a misdemeanor crime involving fraudulent unemployment insurance claims. Charlie waived a presentencing report and was sentenced immediately to a conditional discharge. He must lead a lawful life for one year, or he faces further sentencing. Unfortunately, the moment he was sentenced, he forfeited his seat on the Cheektowaga Town Council, because he admitted to a "willful deceit or a calculated disregard for honest dealings," thus violating his oath of office. Markel apparently plans to fight his ejection from the Council, but his efforts are doomed. The leading case on such matters is Matter of Holt v Marinelli and it is offered below:
In Holt, Erie County Legislator George Holt pled guilty to filing a fraudulent tax return and not paying enough taxes. Markel filed false unemployment claims and received money he had no right to. Holt forfeited his office, so did Markel.
As an interesting side note, County Executive Mark Poloncarz had previously employed Markel at the Rath Building as a maintenance supervisor. Political insiders considered Charlie to be Mark's personal woodpile rat in Cheektowaga, undermining the Frank Max organization. Markel was apparently dumped when Polo got wind of the unemployment fraud investigation. Wonder if any of the slop from this sorry episode will splash back on the Emperor?