Hefty salaries for state PR workers who don't answer questions

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- For a seventh straight day, state representatives have refused to answer questions on why payments were late to contractors at the Riverbend site, which resulted in layoffs.

Last Thursday, 2 On Your Side broke the story that layoffs were "imminent" because contractors were owed tens of millions of dollars.

It took several more days for Empire State Development, SUNY Polytechnic and the office of Governor Andrew Cuomo to identify a funding source and get the money to LPCiminelli, the lead developer on the project.

Officials expect all the laid-off workers will have returned to work by this coming Monday at the very latest. Many are already back on the job.

2 On Your Side filed Freedom of Information Requests to get the most up-to-date salary information for the public information officers at ESD, SUNY Poly and the governor's office, all of whom refuse to tell the public what happened. This has been in an effort to show just how much taxpayer money is being used to pay for staffers who are supposed to inform the public, but in this case, are concealing information instead.

The following information was provided to 2 On Your Side due to a Freedom of Information Law request. This is the most current annualized salary information available (ESD refers to Empire State Development):

  • Jerry Gretzinger, SUNY Polytechnic Institute spokesperson - $151,950
  • Katherine Wright, ESD Exec. Vice President of Public Affairs - $165,245
  • Gerardo Russo, ESD Vice President of Communications - $148,791
  • Pamm Lent, ESD Director of Communications WNY - $102,785
  • Laura Magee, ESD Deputy Director of Communications - $61,704
  • Jason Conwall, ESD Upstate Press Secretary - $52,979
  • Maria Michalos, ESD Junior Press Secretary/Speechwriter - $47,715.92
  • Jasmine Baker, ESD Coordinator of Social Media and Communications - $42,194
  • James Allen, Governor's Director of Communications - $158,000
  • Richard Azzopardi, Governor's Sr. Deputy Communications Director - $106,391.83
  • John Kelly, Governor's Press Secretary - $144,687.17
  • Dani Lever, Governor's First Deputy Press Secretary - $88,082.63
  • Abigail Fashouer, Governor's Deputy Press Secretary - $61,966.82
  • Patrick Brewer, Governor's Deputy Press Secretary - $46,786.79

If you add up these employees -- all of whom should have been able to respond to our repeated media inquiries -- you get to $1,379,281.16, or well over a million taxpayer dollars.

Add to that Alain Kaloyeros, Ph.D., who is president and C.E.O. of SUNY Polytechnic. We called his personal phone this week seeking comment. He also did not answer. In 2014, records show Dr. Kaloyeros made $987,075 in a state salary.

We should also mention the salary of Governor Andrew Cuomo, who makes $179,000 by statute. Governor Cuomo promised the "most transparent administration in state history" early in his first term; however, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) said of Cuomo, "The only thing transparent about Gov. Cuomo's administration is his obvious attempt to avoid disclosure."

2 On Your Side will continue to reach out to the agencies and organizations involved and demand answers for the citizens of Western New York, especially those workers who were temporarily laid off due to mistakes in Albany.


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