Cheektowaga lawmaker calls for federal probe of town contracts

CHEEKTOWAGA, N.Y. (WIVB) – In the wake of a critical audit of town contracts by the State Comptroller’s Office, Cheektowaga Councilmember Angela Wozniak is requesting a federal investigation into possible bid-rigging.

Overpayments for new sidewalks and other public works projects seemed to be so obvious to Wozniak, she suspected there might be more to it.

So Wozniak asked the State Comptroller to audit the town’s contracts, and the audit turned up what the auditor called a “highly questionable” practice for awarding contracts, “which led the town to waste nearly one million dollars of taxpayer funds, and for that the town taxpayers need answers.”

Among the findings in the Comptroller’s audit: The town overpaid two vendors more than $100,000 for solid waste disposal and sidewalk replacement.

Because of the overpayments for sidewalks, property owners have to reimburse the town for sidewalk replacement, so a significant portion of the additional cost was borne by taxpayers.

Town Supervisor Mary Holtz admits mistakes were made in awarding town contracts, but says there was nothing sinister.

“We would have caught that when we do our own audit on our books at the end of the year, or during the period of time. Unfortunately the auditor caught it before we caught it, so we immediately contacted the contractor. We got all the money we overpaid on these contracts.”

Holtz says those overpayments for sidewalk replacements have been paid back, and when asked about charges of possible bid-rigging, Holtz answered, “I think what we have here is a situation, I think, where we have accusations of ‘pay-per-play,’ or some kind of corruption in the Town of Cheektowaga without any kind of evidence, whatsoever.”

The audit also called into question a $600,000 overpayment because the town contracted for four-inch sidewalks instead of six-inch sidewalks.

Holtz points out most town sidewalks are four inches deep, and six-inch sidewalks would be more costly in the end.

When asked about Wozniak’s request for a federal investigation, a spokesperson for U.S. Attorney William Hochul followed policy, saying the office will neither confirm nor deny an investigation is underway.

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