Buffalo Lawmakers Side Gigs – Investigative Post : Investigative Post

From political work for the State Assembly to running DoorDash, Common Council members are working overtime to earn extra money. And for some, city jobs are a family affair.

Buffalo Common Council Majority Leader Leah Halton-Pope, President Pro Tempore Bryan Bollman and University District Councilmember Rasheed Wyatt.

Buffalo Common Council Majority Leader Leah Halton-Pope was sworn in – and put on the city payroll – on January 1.

But she collected more than a paycheck from the city during her first four months in office.

Halton-Pope continued to work as a part-time political consultant for Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes — the woman she called her “forever boss” — until late April, earning about $3,000 per month. And she continues to chair the re-election campaign of Peoples-Stokes, who paid her an $18,000 consulting fee last year.

That’s according to the latest round of annual financial statements that certain city officials — including all those in elected positions — must file each year with the city clerk, along with state and municipal payroll records. campaign financing.

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In February, Investigative Post received city officials’ latest financial disclosures from a local good government activist, but they had been largely redacted by the city’s legal department. The activist successfully fought the city’s redactions and shared uncensored copies with Investigative Post last week.

Unredacted financial information reveals Halton-Pope’s continued membership in the State Assembly and Peoples-Stokes’ campaign committee. Both side businesses are legal, according to a lawyer who monitors transparency in state and local governments.

Halton-Pope told Investigative Post that his last payday in the Assembly was April 30. She served Peoples-Stokes for a decade. By the end of her tenure, she was earning well over $70,000 a year as a senior adviser, according to state payroll records.

“It was definitely part-time — 15 to 17 hours a week,” she said of her final four months working for the Assembly Majority Leader. “A lot of it was wrapping up projects I had worked on before.”

The financial information also contains elements of interest on other responsible parties:

  • Masten District Councilmember Zeneta Everhart left her job for then-Senator Tim Kennedy before she was sworn in in January. She reported no other outside income.
  • Acting Council President Bryan Bollman made extra money delivering food for Uber Eats and DoorDash.
  • Council President Chris Scanlon makes do with his city salary, but his wife and five siblings also collect city paychecks.
  • Joel Feroleto of the District of Delaware, one of the council’s most determined members, teaches a class on street art and social activism.

Certain city officials – including all those who hold elected office – must file financial disclosures with the city clerk each year, in accordance with the city’s ethics code.

These officials must list outside income, real estate and other investments, and gifts and loans from individuals or institutions that may have business before the city. Officials must also disclose the sources of income of their spouse and children, and name any other close relatives who are employed or work under contract for the city or other governments.

The purpose of the disclosure forms is to disclose any actual or potential conflict of interest that could require officials to recuse themselves from the city’s deliberations on a policy or contract.

City lawmakers gave themselves a 12 percent pay raise last summer, bringing their base salary to $84,472, nearly three times the city’s median income. The council chair gets $15,000 more, the majority leader and pro-remorse chair gets $10,000 more, and committee chairs get $5,000 more.

However, six of the nine board members hold secondary jobs, according to the disclosures. And for some, public service is practically a family business.

Black ink everywhere

Last February, Investigative Post examined financial disclosures filed by Erie County elected officials. (The most memorable takeaway from this story: Erie County Clerk Mickey Kearns, like Bollman, earned extra money delivering food.) The county’s human resources department provided this information without redactions.

Initially, the municipal administration was less accommodating towards the public’s right to information.

Nathan Feist, paralegal, frequently writes about municipal government and politics for his company blog. Feist filed a request with the city clerk under the state’s Freedom of Information law in January, seeking the most recent financial disclosures from a host of elected officials and members of various city boards and committees .

The following month, the clerk’s office provided Feist with copies of the disclosures he had requested — but only after the documents were largely redacted by the city’s law department.

City lawyers went well beyond removing lawmakers’ home phone numbers, home addresses and children’s names. They also redacted outside sources of income, as well as the names of spouses and other family members and their jobs — all of which are supposed to be public information.

For example, Halton-Pope’s response to outside employment was completely glossed over:

So was the name and occupation of her husband, Marc Pope, who was chief of staff to Darius Pridgen, Halton-Pope’s predecessor in the Ellicott district seat.

Before Pridgen left office at the end of 2023, the Brown administration hired Pope as infrastructure director at a salary of $100,319.

But you wouldn’t know that from the city’s redacted response:

Paul Wolf, president of New York State Coalition for Open Governmenttold Investigative Post that he didn’t think keeping Halton-Pope in the Assembly posed a conflict of interest.

He cited many opinions of the state attorney general covering cases where individuals may (or may not) hold two public offices simultaneously, neither of which prohibits “an elected official of the city from also being on the payroll of an elected official of the state,” he said.

On the other hand, Wolf said the city’s initial suppressions of disclosures contradicted the letter and spirit of state and local transparency laws.

“The purpose of the financial disclosure form is to disclose information to the public,” Wolf said.

“The public and media must have the opportunity to review and report potential conflicts of interest, which cannot be done if employment information is redacted. »

Feist filed a formal appeal with the city’s Law Department in March, asking that the redactions be removed.

Last week, the city’s lawyers acknowledged they erred in hiding relevant information from the disclosures and provided documents to Feist free of most redactions.

It’s a family affair

Halton-Pope isn’t the only elected official to have a spouse on the city’s payroll.

The council president’s wife is a municipal bingo inspector, a position that has earned her about $52,000 in each of the past two years. She also works as an occupational therapist in a retirement home.

Scanlon also has five siblings who work for the city, according to his disclosure reports.

Chris Scanlon, president of the Buffalo Common Council.

Two brothers, Brian and Patrick, are firefighters. Patrick was once a paid intern in his brother’s legislative office; Brian also co-owns a bar in Elmwood Village.

Two other brothers work for the Department of Public Works: Michael as a foreman, John as a dispatcher. A sister, Kara, is a dispatcher for the police department.

In total, the city paid these seven Scanlons about $534,000 in 2023, according to city payroll records.

Two of his five siblings were already working for the city when Scanlon took office in 2012. Many other Scanlons have also held positions at City Hall, including their late father, John “Scanoons” Scanlon, who was advisor to former mayor Jimmy. Griffin.

Delaware District Council member Joel Feroleto works for Feroleto Law, the firm run by his father. He handles personal injury cases, according to court records. He is also an adjunct professor at D’Youville University, where he co-teaches a course on murals as a form of art and social activism. The course includes visits to street murals along Hertel Avenue in the Feroleto neighborhood.

His mother, Paula Feroleto, is a state judge who, until 2021, was chief administrator of the regional court system. His brother John is the county attorney.

Fillmore’s Mitch Nowakowski doesn’t mention any outside employment. His partner, Gary Wilson, was appointed municipal court judge in 2022, thanks in part to Nowakowski’s influence and lobbying efforts. Wilson is listed as a Airbnb “superhost” for Lower West Side property the couple owns it. Nowakowski told Investigative Post the rental was a cottage behind the house they occupy.

Joe Golombek of the North District, a board member since 1999, has taught history at SUNY Buffalo State since 2001.

In addition to delivering food for Uber Eats and DoorDash, Lovejoy’s Bollman is a licensed real estate brokeralthough he did not list this occupation on his disclosure form.

David Rivera of Niagara, a retired Buffalo police officer, has received a pension of about $40,000 a year since 2008, when he took office.

The university’s Rasheed Wyatt reported no outside income or real estate interests, other than his own home. His wife works in a bank.

As noted, Everhart de Masten was employed by Kennedy when she ran for office last year, but Senate payroll records show she left that position when she took office in January. His declaration form reveals no outside income and no family member registered on a public payroll. His sister, Janet, is running for the city school board.

On her financial disclosure form filed in January, Halton-Pope indicated that she expected her part-time employment with Peoples-Stokes to end in March. She stayed a month longer than that, but she told Investigative Post that she finished serving two districts. May’s intense budget negotiations made it clear, Halton-Pope said, that she needed to “commit fully” to her position as council majority leader.

“I didn’t think otherwise that I would be fully serving the citizens of the 141st Assembly District or the Ellicott District,” she said.

published 1 hour ago – June 11, 2024