BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — One of Western New York’s biggest developers, Carl Paladino, says Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz is playing politics with one of the county’s most critical — and embattled — departments: social services.
In the coming weeks, more than 450 county employees will begin occupying spaces throughout the county. Paladino claims it will cost taxpayers more.
For more than a half century the county’s Social Services department, including the Department of Children’s Services and Child Protective Services, has occupied 115,000 square feet of 478 Main St. The building is owned by Paladino.
“We’ve been, in my estimation, good landlords,” Paladino said.
In December of 2015, Poloncarz informed Paladino of his plans to move.
A brokerage firm hired by the county — at a reported cost of $400,000 based on commission — recommended a building at Fountain Plaza, which is managed by Paul Ciminelli.
The county legislature even toured the new digs, but eventually put the breaks on the deal because it would have been more expensive
In a letter sent out to all county department heads late last month, Poloncarz said they will find space wherever they can, and the county will be “taking inventory of all unused and under-utilized office space.”
He said the legislature won’t approve his plan to go with Ciminelli, and called the conditions at Paladino’s building “precarious.”
He also says going with Ciminelli would cost less.
That’s not true, according to Paladino and the county legislature.
In fact, it would cost $4 less per square foot to remain at 478 Main Street, or about $3.8 million over the course of a five-year lease, according to Paladino.
Also curious, audio from a legislative committee meeting earlier this month shows Paladino and Ciminelli were given requests for proposals with different numbers — in other words, bid rigging, Paladino said.
“Appearances are that some people received an RFP for 65,000 square feet, and other people received a bid for 81,000 square feet,” he said.
Paladino said the move was a foregone conclusion.
“They started with a conclusion, and that was that it was more expensive to stay where they are than go to another building,” Paladino said. “That was a lie. It was a fabrication. It wasn’t a mistake. It was intentional.
“That somebody’s playing games,” he added. “And it’s very unfair, obviously.”
Paladino wrote a letter to the county early this week, notifying them of his intent to sue.