NEWFANE, N.Y. (WIVB) – A federal investigation is underway into the office of a longtime political powerhouse. The news came shortly after State Senator George Maziarz of Niagara County announced he will not seek re-election.
Some of his former staff members have already resigned, amid a probe over the use of campaign funds. There are many questions left unanswered Monday surrounding the shakeup.
News 4’s Ed Drantch confirmed there is a federal investigation into Senator Maziarz, and documents have been subpoenaed from his office, even while the Niagara County GOP is billing this as Maziarz’s retirement from politics.
Maziarz has been a career politician, rising through the ranks of city and county government as North Tonawanda city clerk and Niagara County clerk, before winning a special election to serve the 62nd State Senate District in 1995.
In a statement, Maziarz said “There is never [a] perfect time to step away.”
While he won’t seek re-election, he will leave a legacy in Niagara and Orleans Counties.
The Republican senator is facing tough questions about campaign finances and spending. According to an article in City and State magazine, over six years, Maziarz made more than $140,000 in questionable purchases.
Albany Bureau Chief Jon Lentz said, “There was no explanation at all. And there was just thousands of dollars and nobody knew what the money was spent on.”
That is the most amount of uncategorized campaign spending by any state legislator and includes about $125,000 at BJ’s Wholesale Club and Target, according to the magazine. In addition, Maziarz allegedly spent $12,000 at craft stores and $4,000 on purchases related to children, including several payments to an area clown.
Spending campaign money for personal use is illegal.
This was all uncovered during the Moreland Commission’s Investigation, seeking to uncover political corruption. Documents obtained by the commission were sent to the US Attorney’s Office in New York City.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office is continuing the investigation and has subpoenaed more information from the senator’s office.
Maziarz told the magazine he’s followed all campaign spending laws.
It’s unclear if this contributed to Maziarz stepping aside, as the long-time senator has not returned numerous calls looking for comment.
Sources have told News 4’s Ed Drantch, the Republican nominee will now be North Tonawanda Mayor Rob Ortt. Ortt has served with the Army National Guard and spent time overseas in Afghanistan.
Locally, Ortt became the city treasurer in 2008, then clerk-treasurer when the position was combined. He became mayor in 2010.
Ortt issued a public comment on Facebook, vaguely thanking Maziarz for his service to North Tonawanda and Western New York. He has not commented further.