BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — One week after Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz was named in a Buffalo Police report stating that he grabbed and restrained an ex-girlfriend during a fight at her home in Buffalo, Poloncarz is now responding to a complaint alleging an improper grant to a local cultural organization.
According to a memo, from the Erie County Comptroller’s Office, last week, the Comptroller’s Office received a complaint claiming thousands of dollars in county funds were improperly issued to Buffalo’s Italian Cultural Center.
News 4 Investigates received a similar complaint claiming this happened because Poloncarz was in a relationship with an official at the center.
The Comptroller’s Office says it started conducting research into the matter — not calling it an investigation. Comptroller Kevin Hardwick says over the past four years, the Italian Cultural Center has received more than $167,000 in county funding, which has largely been funded through the budget process.
The comptroller says its reviewed all contracts between Erie County and the center and it appears all rules were followed. The memo from the Comptroller’s Office says in 2019, there was no request for an operating grant from the center, but still the center received a $7,500 grant anyway as an Executive recommendation.
This year, the center was recommended $2,000 and the County Executive increased the amount to $7,500.
But, Poloncarz’s opponent in the County Executive’s race says any possible conflict of interest should’ve been disclosed.
“I would suggest that he should’ve recused himself or been honest about any and all sexual relationships he was having with any vendor even if he was married to the woman anything should have been disclosed,” Republican candidate for County Executive Chrissy Casilio said, “There needs to be further investigations there needs to be probably an outside source that needs to come in and look at this because there are abnormalities and there is a pattern of behavior this isn’t a one time incident.”
Casilio thinks the U.S. Attorney’s Office should now investigate. In a statement, a spokesperson for Poloncarz says there is no disclosure provision in county ethics policy for elected officials while they’re dating someone. The statement goes on to say the funding for the center was approved by a bipartisan committee and the full legislature.
It’s important to point out that this complaint with the Comptroller’s Office was made one day before a police report was filed describing Poloncarz as the aggressor in a domestic incident his ex-girlfriend. Poloncarz says nothing got physical and that it was a bad breakup.
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Jeff Preval is an award-winning anchor and reporter who joined the News 4 team in December 2021. See more of his work here.