Another Voice: Politicians need to speak up about CAO improprieties – Buffalo News

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By Betty Jean Grant

As an informed citizen, one has an obligation and a duty to protect the public’s trust in its government, all public agencies and to abide by the rules and regulations put in place to make sure these policies are adhered to.

There have been at least five articles and two editorials published in The News over the past month detailing the irregularities and possible unapproved activities of the Western New York Community Action Organization’s board of directors and its lawyer and legal adviser.

All of these published reports and not one peep out of Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz, Buffalo Mayor Byron W. Brown or even our U.S. senators, Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand. Not one word of concern from Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes or State Sen. Timothy Kennedy, who in his capacity as chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee was instrumental in recommending former comptroller Mark Schroeder to the long-vacant position of state commissioner of the Department of Motor Vehicles.

As a previous writer to The News, Joseph Allen, opined, it remains suspect that the former city comptroller was selected for this position only after he was in the process of doing a comprehensive audit of the CAO, which is run by a personal friend and political ally of Mayor Brown.

It is also troubling that the person who was endorsed by the Democratic Party to be the next city comptroller, and who will be responsible for oversight and for conducting audits of the CAO, is a personal friend and political ally of Mayor Brown, Sen. Kennedy and the CEO of the Community Action Organization. What is mind-boggling is that this individual was just appointed to this CAO board to replace the improperly fired board members who called for the audit in the first place.

At a time when precious dollars to fight Buffalo’s poverty rate are decreasing or are being eliminated, we cannot have a situation where politically connected agencies and their managers are held to a different standard than the rest of us.

The four longtime board members who were removed and the several honest and brave former CAO employees who were fired should be commended for coming forward in their effort to be the stewards of resources that are desperately needed.

This region cannot afford to disregard or to make light of what these courageous women have brought forth and determined to be improprieties in the management of an agency that is in charge on tens of millions of dollars allocated to Western New York to increase the living standards of the poorest among us.

Betty Jean Grant is a former member of the Erie County Legislature, from which she retired in 2017.

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