OTB Denies Wrongdoing: Retains High Profile Buffalo Attorney to Review Reports

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By: Tony Farina

Faced with widespread published reports of an FBI investigation into the awarding of contracts, Western Regional Off Track Betting Corp. has retained leading Buffalo attorney Terry Connors to conduct a thorough review.

“The board has hired me to look into the matter,” said Connors, declining further comment at this time, but referring to a statement recently issued by the WROTB Board of Directors which noted that all contracts are reviewed by an independent board.

The statement reads, in part, that any FBI investigation, if there is one, “would learn that our contracts are reviewed by an independent Board of Directors appointed by the County Legislatures of 15 counties and the Mayors of two cities.  These contracts are audited, public documents and available for public inspection.”

The statement goes on to say that WROTB has procurement policies that are strictly observed, adding “we are proud of our record at WROTB, as the only municipally owned and operated gaming facility in New York State.”

In addition, the WROTB statement adds that “we are not just a strong economic driver for Western New York, but we provide critical funding for community development which creates jobs, protects families and helps to offset tax increases for residents.”

During a recent interview with this newspaper, Henry Wojtaszek, president and CEO of Western Regional Off Track Betting and Batavia Downs Gaming, said “we were able to give back $3 million in profits for 2016-17 to our OTB localities,” referring to the 15 counties and two cities (Buffalo and Rochester) that comprise the OTB network.

Wojtaszek, a former Niagara County GOP chairman and former top aide to retired State Sen. George Maziarz, was the target of several charges by Maziarz last February, including allegations of a bid-rigging scheme in Niagara County and giveaways to friends and families at OTB.

There had already been several investigations into the bid-rigging allegations by Maziarz, but the probes led to no charges.  Nonetheless, Maziarz, who chose not to seek re-election in 2014 as state and federal investigators were reviewing his campaign spending, has continued his attacks on his former top aide and other former associates.  The alleged bid-rigging is now being reviewed yet again by a special prosecutor requested by Caroline Wojtaszek, the wife of Henry who is also the Niagara County district attorney.

The FBI has neither confirmed nor denied any probe into the awarding of contracts by WROTB which were allegedly made to politically connected firms, according to unnamed multiple sources in published reports.   

 

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