BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) - Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown is breaking his silence about a former top aide who stole your taxpayer money. New details are now surfacing.
Tim Wanamaker has admitted to federal corruption charges. He was chief of economic development under both Mayor Brown and former Mayor Anthony Masiello. As a condition of his plea deal, Wanamaker is telling all he knows about other possible abuses at City Hall.
Mayor Brown said, "Certainly any time any public employee does something that is inappropriate it is disappointing."
Wanamaker was the director of Strategic Planning, under Brown and former mayor Anthony Masiello and president of the Buffalo Economic Renaissance Corporation, known as BERC. Wanamaker admitted stealing $30,000 from BERC in unauthorized travel charges.
"When we found irregularities, we eliminated the organization. There is no travel because BERC is not functioning, right now. So this type of thing could not occur in the future because there is no BERC," explained Mayor Brown.
But Wanamaker left Buffalo, in 2008, to take a city manager's post in California and Brown did not pull the plug on BERC until other outrages surfaced, including more than $100,000 in loans and grants to One Sunset on Delaware Avenue, owned by former basketball star Leonard Stokes, that lasted less than a year.
BERC vice president Michelle Barron was fired over that one. Civic leaders also complained about BERC's ineffectiveness.
Common Council member Michael LoCurto said, "There was a lot of money going to BERC and they were not getting a lot of results. They were getting a lot of economic development money for business loans, but they were not making a lot of loans."
Prosecutors say the Wanamaker case came to light following an audit by federal housing officials, looking into possible misuse of government anti-poverty money by city officials. That audit is now part of an ongoing investigation.
Officials claim the city has misspent millions of dollars intended to fight poverty, but so far Wanamaker is the only one charged criminally.
U.S. Attorney William Hochul said, "And we are going to follow the evidence wherever it leads. If additional charges are brought, at that time, there will be further public filings and disclosures."
Federal prosecutors also point out, Wanamaker's theft of federal funds rips off taxpayers twice - those whose tax dollars were misspent and low income Buffalonians who could have used the help.
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