BUFFALO, N.Y. - We've all heard the commercials that start "Hurt in a car...".
Now the man behind them, attorney William Mattar, finds himself in the midst of a controversy over his request for over half-a-million dollars in tax breaks from the Amherst Industrial Development Agency to expand his practice.
Assemblyman Sean Ryan and County Executive Mark Poloncarz say the Amherst IDA would be violating its own rules if it gives Mattar $550,000 in tax breaks.
Mattar wants to knock down a vacant church next door to his law firm's building to do a $4 million expansion that would include a new call center and create 20 new jobs.
But Poloncarz and Ryan say IDA rules prohibit giving tax breaks to law firms, and that the Amherst IDA has become notorious for giving away taxpayers' money.
Assemblyman Sean Ryan: "So my message to the Amherst IDA is simple and it's two-fold: stop wasting our taxpayer dollars and two don't give special treatment to one out of the many hundreds of law firms in Western New York."
Ryan and Poloncarz held a news conference in Buffalo on Thursday at the law firm of Collins & Collins.
Twenty years ago the firm bought an old, run-down mansion and spent $1 million to rehabilitate it -- without any taxpayer subsidies.
Bill Collins of Collins & Collins: "It just strikes me as very very odd that a firm such as William Mattar, if you look he probably spends multiple million dollars advertising, and he's asking for the taxpayers to fund the growth of his business. I think that's wrong. I don't think that's what the IDA is for."
Mattar, for his part, says the tax subsidies aren't for his firm, but the call center, and that he can't do the project without the tax breaks.
William Mattar: "This is a good project that will bring jobs and will ultimately increase the tax bases and the taxes on this property."
County Executive Mark Poloncarz: "It doesn't matter that it's a call center because he calls it a call center, it's no different than a receptionist at a law firm. If you call his phone number someone's going to answer the phone."
The Amherst IDA will hold a public hearing on the request for the tax breaks at 8:30 Friday morning, with a vote likely to follow right after that.