Leaders concerned about Billion to Buffalo probe

Lawmakers React To Charges Filed

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Local elected officials are relying on the Buffalo Billion and Solar City --just as much as residents are-- to have a positive impact on Western New York, so they want to see it done right.
But Thursday’s charges put a sour spin on a major state investment aimed at bringing an economic boost to the area.
 
"When we focus all of the power into the governor's office, and we have Albany picking winners and losers, then the insiders are always going to be the winners, and that's not the way we should be doing business,” said Assemblyman Ray Walter.
 
Walter, along with Assemblyman Robin Schimminger, questioned Empire State Development leaders just two months ago on what these programs were really all about.
 
"We got a lot of pushback from the governor and his administration,” said Walter.
 
Other elected officials are disappointed.
 
Senator Patrick Gallivan sent Channel 2 the following statement by e-mail:
 
“I am concerned about today’s reports and, like all New Yorkers, I am anxious to learn more as this investigation moves forward.  As always, if wrongdoing has occurred, those responsible must be held accountable.
 
We must also work to ensure that important economic development initiatives in Buffalo and Western New York move forward and that job creating efforts continue.”     
 
Assemblyman John Ceretto echoes a similar sentiment.
 
“I’m as tired of these indictments as you are. Enough is enough – this type of behavior is absolutely unacceptable and I won’t tolerate it. We need to root out corruption, increase transparency, and get government working for the people again,” he wrote.
 
Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes spoke with reporters by phone, and said she’s disappointed but hopeful it won’t hurt the current upswing in the City of Buffalo.
 
Senator Tim Kennedy had different feelings on Friday’s allegations, saying the charges are evidence that the system works when people follow through.
 
"What we have to do is ensure that these laws are being enforced, and the fact that individuals have been accused of this corruption in the public arena, and are being bought to the forefront is a demonstration that the laws on the books, if enforced, are working,” Kennedy said by phone.
 
Kennedy said he gives Preet Bharara credit for the work it took to get to these federal charges.
 
But Louis Ciminelli, named is these charges, is a major political donor as well.
 
According to the New York State Board of Elections, he has donated to six Erie county Assembly members and Senators over the past 10 years.
 
Senator Kennedy got the most from Ciminelli, at $16,500. Kennedy acknowledged the donations and said Ciminelli was one of many people who donated to what Kennedy described as expensive races.
 
Kennedy says Ciminelli was just one of many people and businesses who donated to his races. 
 
“Lou Ciminelli and his corporation are going to have their day in court, and I'll reserve judgement until then,” Kennedy said.
 
Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes has the second highest amount of donation money, at $8,500 from Ciminelli.
 
"Over the last 14 years, there have been number of business entities that have supported my candidacy to be a New York State legislator, and I’m grateful for their support, and I don’t think there's anything wrong with them supporting me,” she said. “We have very strong campaign finance rules.”
 
Senators Pat Gallivan and Mike Ranzenhoffer, as well as Assembly members Sean Ryan and Robin
 
Schimminger, also received smaller donations from Ciminelli, ranging from $750.00 to $3,059 since Janiary 2006.
 

 


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