Empire State’s Hoyt Makes No So Subtle Threats to Town of Lockport Supervisor

by Anna Howard

The Niagara Falls Reporter has obtained what seems to be “threatening” emails sent by William B. “Sam” Hoyt III, the Regional President of Empire State Development – a taxpayer funded state development agency – to former Town of Lockport Supervisor Marc Smith, who is presently the Coordinator of Economic Development and CEO of the Town of Lockport Industrial Development Agency.

The threatening email to Smith was copied by Hoyt to an extensive list of local economic development officials located across Niagara County, including USA Niagara Development Corp. President Christopher J. Schoepflin and planners in both the Town and City of Lockport as well as County Hall, as well as Yahoo company officials listed as working in the company’s Sunnyvale, Calif. headquarters.

One email, which purports to speak on behalf of both Empire State Development and New York State, contains an implicit threat to Lockport’s economic development agency: If Smith and other town officials continue to speak to the press about their treatment by Empire State Development, they may find themselves being excluded from future state economic development grants.

“Marc: We must have attended different schools of communications and diplomacy. When I have an objection to or concern about an action taken by somebody I do business with I pick up the phone and call that person,” Hoyt wrote Smith on March 24, before leveling an implied threat: “The fact is The City and Town of Lockport has received millions of dollars in assistance from NYS/ESD prior to you becoming coordinator of economic development for The Town of Lockport. As long as we continue to have a reasonable partner to work with, I see no reason why that strong working relationship that we have enjoyed would not continue.”

Hoyt, who co-sponsored a 2009 anti-bullying bill while still an Assemblyman, didn’t merely stop at threatening Smith for not kowtowing to ESD on the matter, however.  He also seems to impose a gag order on Smith’s future communications: “I would never begin a discussion by sending an email– copying many others and alerting the media—using hyperbolic language like ‘repugnant’.”

Hoyt’s email, ironically, was sent to a significant number of people.

What prompted Hoyt’s threat to Smith and his entire town?

The tone of Sam Hoyt’s email to Marc Smith suggests that if Smith is not a good boy going forward there will be no gifts in the town’s Christmas stocking this or any other Christmas. Beware Marc!

The tone of Sam Hoyt’s email to Marc Smith suggests that if Smith is not a good boy going forward there will be no gifts in the town’s Christmas stocking this or any other Christmas. Beware Marc!

Smith’s offense, it seems, was that he had written to USA Niagara’s Schoepflin—who also serves as Empire State Development’s Western New York regional director—to protest the exclusion of non-profit groups in the Town of Lockport and the neighboring City of Lockport from applying for money provided by Yahoo for community development.  It is worth noting, here, that Yahoo is located in the Town of Lockport’s industrial park, and receives a tax free benefit package from the town negotiated by Smith’s predecessor as economic development coordinator, David Kenyon.

Thanks to ESD, non-profits in the Town of Lockport are now excluded from benefiting from the arrangement negotiated by the Town of Lockport—that Yahoo! Pay $500,000 per year for community charities – even though contemporary news articles suggested that the City and Town of Lockport were to be given preference. Smith had cited those news articles in his email to Schoepflin.

Schoepflin had taken the unusual step of linking the blocking of Lockport from the Yahoo! funds directly to the state’s decision to not include Niagara Falls in a funding formula for Seneca Niagara Casino slot machine monies in a March 16 email: “One of the lenses ESD used [to determine which communities could apply for Yahoo! funds] related to the distribution of casino revenues in Niagara County,” Schoepflin wrote.

USA Niagara, by the way, was among the entities set to receive funding from the Senecas’ casino under legislation advanced by State Sen. Rob Ortt earlier this spring.

The Niagara Falls Reporter is told that Hoyt also contacted City of Lockport officials and made similar not-so-veiled threats about the level of state investment in the heavily blue-collar community of 20,000.

No local officials contacted by the Reporter were willing to speak on the record about the Hoyt emails.

However, the bullying tone of Hoyt’s emails raises the eerie specter of a 2014 standoff between the economic development official, seen by many in political circles as Cuomo’s enforcer in Western New York, and the Buffalo Common Council. Then, Hoyt found himself publicly apologizing to Buffalo Council Member Joseph Golombek, Jr., for comments he had made regarding the Peace Bridge project that had seemingly dismissed local residents’ concerns and those of Buffalo city government.

More ironically, though, Hoyt’s emails seem to fly in the face of the bill he once co-sponsored aimed at criminalizing bullying: “Egregious incidents of bullying, both in person and through the use of technology, have increased,” the text of the bill said. “The term ‘bullying’ shall include communications or dissemination of any material through the use of technology or electronic means.”

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