Former Attorney General Sues State for Wrongful Action In Dismantling WROTB and ‘Neutering’ Outlying Counties

By Tony Farina

Former State Attorney General Dennis Vacco of the Buffalo law firm of Lippes Mathias, is still awaiting responses from the state on the lawsuit he filed in September on behalf of several member counties challenging the language in the state budget in May that, in Vacco’s words, “neutered” the power of the outlying member counties of the Western Regional Off-Track Betting Corp.

“It was a sleight-of-hand action,” said Vacco, referring to the budget bill language that he said was attached to a message of necessity to approve the state budget, because it would never have passed on its own.

Dennis Vacco

As previously reported here, South Buffalo State Sen. Tim Kennedy, a Democrat, engineered  the dismantling of one of the most successfully run agencies in the state by putting the language in the budget bill to fire every commissioner of WROTBC, a public benefit corporation that has returned millions to its member counties and cities since its inception,  In fact, that number is more than $245 million returned to its 15 member counties and two cities since 1973 to use as needed to help keep taxes down.

Vacco said any action to strip the outlying counties of their power in favor of the traditional Democratic political strongholds of Erie and Monroe Counties, and the cities of Buffalo and Rochester, should have followed the same model of language that was used to create the state’s off track betting agencies back in the 1970s. Vacco said that model was not used in the budget language in the Kennedy-backed bill that effectively “neutered” the power of the rural counties, mostly Republican controlled.  And WROTB was the only regional OTB agency in the state targeted by the state that abolished its one-county, one-vote system.  Simply stated, home rule was abolished for WROTB in the budget bill approved through last May,  according to the former attorney general, and it was not properly enacted.

Vacco’s lawsuit states that the 1973 legislation creating the OTB agencies was passed “during the general session of the Legislature as an independent piece of legislation—not through the budget process.”  That should have been the same procedure this year but it was not, according to the Vacco lawsuit against the state.

The suit says the plaintiffs continue to be damaged by the actions of the  legislation and seeks to have the modifications that were enacted to be declared invalid.

Plaintiffs include Genesee County, Orleans County, Niagara County, Livingston County, Wyoming County, and Seneca County. The defendants named in the suit include the governor, the attorney general, and the state Senate and Assembly.  Orleans County is designated as the place of trial.

The lawsuit recognizes Batavia Downs Gaming & Hotel (Genesee County) as the centerpiece of WROTB which provides the substantial majority of revenue generated by WROTB and provides employment, investments, and commerce within the county, one of the plaintiffs in the legal action against the state.












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