Tag Archives: Kadet

Political Money and Political Politics

30 Oct

In the race for Erie County Comptroller, no one can mount a credible attack that incumbent Mark Poloncarz has done a lousy job.  Instead, the only attacks are that he’s too political and that he “can’t count”.  Specifically, Phil Kadet charges that Poloncarz projected that 2008 would end up with a deficit of $10 million, but that it actually ended up being a surplus of $10 million.

That would be great if it was true.

The ad references a January 2009 article where everyone – the comptroller and the county executive – expressed concern about a deficit.  In the article Kadet cites, Poloncarz specifically states,

“There is a very distinct possibility, when all is said and done and we close out our financial statements, that we will end up with a deficit,” Comptroller Mark C. Poloncarz said Friday. “It will probably be less than $10 million. But you don’t want a deficit. And a deficit is a deficit.”

That alone is distinctly different from what Kadet’s ad claims. And Collins’ office was concerned, too:

County Executive Chris Collins, through his budget office, had slowed hiring to a trickle and froze other discretionary spending when sales tax income started cooling at midyear.

Collins’ budget director, Gregory G. Gach, also canceled any employee travel plans that were not fully reimbursed by the state or federal governments or were not needed to “fulfill core missions.”

Gach, in his final budget status report for 2008, told the Legislature in early December that he foresaw a $1.6 million surplus but warned that a further downturn in sales tax income could change that. Fuel prices, a major component of sales tax proceeds, already were falling.

In his forecast, Gach said he had not accounted for the potential $6 million-plus payment related to ECMC because it was only rumored at the time. Weeks later, however, the state Health Department alerted Erie County it owed the money, then took the $6.23 million on Tuesday.

When the final numbers actually came in, it turned out that there would likely be a surplus of $5 to 7 million – not the $20 million swing Kadet charges.  That’s not an inability to count, that’s alerting government to a potential problem, and government reacting appropriately to slash spending.

So, we’ve established that Kadet’s making crap up when it comes to who can and can’t count.  Let’s turn to Kadet’s “I’m a CPA” mantra. He also claims that the current comptroller’s office is too political (read: anti-Collins). They charge that the cellphone audit, the parking audit, and other audits have all been too political.

But so what?  What’s wrong with examining everything that county government does?  And Poloncarz has been criticizing the Democratic legislature when needed, too.  For instance,

  • In 2006, the Democratic-controlled Legislature approved a resolution granting raises to Giambra managerial-confidential employees in Sewerage Management.  The resolution they approved also would have granted sewer management the perpetual right to grant their managerial-confidential appointees raises whenever they felt like it without legislative approval.  The comptroller’s office contacted the Legislature leadership before they voted on the resolution to alert them to the significance of what they were doing and to advise them against doing it.  They did it anyway.  Poloncarz alerted the public and the media, criticizing the Legislature action, which resulted in the Legislature going back at the next session and reconsidering the resolution to change it to ensure legislative approval and oversight of all such raises in the future.
  • In 2009, the Democratic members of the Legislature attempted to send a partisan mailing to election inspectors claiming credit for attaining higher election day pay for election inspectors.  Upon learning of this, the comptroller’s office  immediately and publicly said this was inappropriate and violated the Legislature’s rules of order pertaining to mailings at County expense.
  • Over the past several years, the comptroller’s office has been critical of proposed Legislature Democratic amendments to the annual budget, noting that certain amendments would create negative variances and could contribute to deficits.
  • In 2006, the comptroller’s office conducted investigations and stopped the Forestry Management Program (timber harvesting in County forests) and the Concession Project at Wendt Beach Park after the Democratic-controlled Legislature had approved each project and allowed them to move forward.  Both projects had serious problems and potential improprieties in the RFP and contract award process with the winning vendors.
  • They have consistently warned and cautioned the Legislature about excessive capital borrowings and County debt and urged them to reduce annual proposed borrowing even when some legislators wanted more or certain projects in their districts funded.
  • In annual budget reports, when Democratic Legislature staff received upgrades or additional salary outside the normal process, we reported that in our reports and noted the incongruity (just like with administration political appointees).

So, the job of comptroller as taxpayer watchdog has been adequately executed for the past four years.  Phil Kadet, on the other hand, was hand-selected by Chris Collins, and has been the beneficiary of at least two very high-dollar fundraisers hosted by Chris Collins, including one in Collins’ own home.  That hardly bodes well for Kadet’s independence as comptroller.