County executive defends writing book about Buffalo Bills negotiations

Comptroller Mychajliw pressing about release of insider information for profit

Mike Baggerman
March 21, 2019 - 2:51 pm

Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz. March 21, 2019 (WBEN Photo/Mike Baggerman)

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BUFFALO, N.Y. (WBEN) - Erie County Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw wants answers from Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz over details about his upcoming book "Beyond the Xs and Os - Keeping the Bills in Buffalo".

The county's top fiscal watchdog said that it's unusual for Poloncarz to personally profit from insider information regarding the Buffalo Bills stadium lease deal.

"We have a lot of questions," Mychajliw told WBEN. "Whether or not he received an advance. Is he being paid in the future? Is he divulging private discussions with the Bills and New York State for personal profit and personal gain?"

According to the county charter, an elected official for Erie County government cannot make a personal profit based on insider information.

Mychajliw also highlighted more than $400,000 in fees to a law firm as it relates to a lease deal, with payments going from 2012 to 2018. The county executive said that the law firm payments are not in the book.

"We agreed at the time we would release the full value of the attorneys that we hired for the outside counsel because we needed outside counsel who knew the NFL," Poloncarz said. "Part of the agreement was we would release the total amount paid but not the billable hour. I have not released the billable hour in the book and you'll find out when the book comes out in the fall."

Poloncarz said he's not receiving an advance for the book and that there is nothing that prohibits him from writing a book and said the republican, Mychajliw, is only bringing up this topic because it's an election year and because Poloncarz is a democrat.

The book, according to Poloncarz, is the "backstory that nobody heard" about the book. He said negotiations broke down multiple times even after an agreement was made.

The county executive related his book to a situation where a leader writes a memoir based on something they did.

But why release a book this year rather than until after he is out of office?

"At that point the information is stale," Poloncarz said. "It's not an autobiography...it's about a particular event. It's a seminal event when it came to keeping the Buffalo Bills in town, which was entering into an agreement which had a $400 million penalty clause if they tried to move the team. If we didn't have that penalty clause, I think the team would've moved."

Mychajliw said an audit could be conducted if Poloncarz does not answer questions about the book or additional attorneys may be consulted.

"There's a lot of unanswered questions," he said. "There may be plausible explanations for all our questions. Depending on those answers, that will determine my next steps."

Removal from office is "extreme" according to Mychajliw. The comptroller said that Poloncarz has until Tuesday to respond to their FOIL request and 30 days from last Wednesday. Poloncarz said he will go through the questions and determine whether it's information that can be provided.

"Some of it is confidential with regards attorney-client privilege," Poloncarz said. "I don't reveal anything that is privileged in the book. I just talk about how we went about it and general discussions."

Asked if his book is his equivalent of Donald Trump's "Art of the Deal", Poloncarz affirmed it is, but with one exception.

"Unlike Donald Trump, who didn't write Art of the Deal, I wrote this book," Poloncarz said.  

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