Casey Bortnick

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Trump Supporter Floats Rice As VP; Says Support Of ‘Establishment Elite’ Not Needed

The first sitting congressman to endorse Donald Trump for president doesn’t presume to be in a position to give Trump advice, but as the Trump campaign starts to vet potential vice presidential candidates, Chris Collins said he’d add one name to the list if asked.

“I can tell you my first, second, and third choice is Condoleezza Rice. She’s a game changer,” Collins said.

Given Trump’s icy relationship with Rice’s former boss, George W. Bush, the Western New York Republican admits it’s unclear if the former Secretary of State would even consider teaming up with Trump.

“But if she did it, she would follow Mr. Trump and become the first female President of the United States,” said Collins.

Collins made the suggestion as the Trump team prepares for a much anticipated meeting with GOP congressional leaders Thursday in Washington. Collins is the co-chair of Trump’s House Leadership Committee and was called to House Speaker Paul Ryan’s office, Wednesday afternoon.

“What I shared with Mr. Ryan today is that Donald Trump listens. He is someone who seeks alternative positions. He is someone from the private sector, as I am, who wants to hear different points of view. He wants to hear lively debate. And he is someone generally in meetings who lets other people do the talking and you wouldn’t necessarily see that on the campaign trail when he’s at rallies,” Collins said.

Ryan and Trump will meet for the first time since the Speaker told CNN last week he was not ready to endorse the presumptive nominee. The comments caught Collins and other Trump supporters off guard.

“He’s (Ryan) agreed we’re going to be united and I said ‘well the sooner you can get comfortable enough to say that, very directly, the better, frankly.’ I’d be thrilled if it’s tomorrow but I guess I don’t necessarily expect it will be, but it will be over the next few weeks, I’m sure, and I’ll let the two of them work that out,” said Collins.

Trump has been under pressure from traditional and more conservative Republicans to not only embrace traditional GOP ideas, but to moderate his tone on the campaign trail. Collins doesn’t expect Trump to bow to that pressure.

“Mr. Trump has to be true to who he is, and I think we will continue to see and hear an outspoken individual but his top-line message hasn’t changed,” Collins said. “The George Bushes, one and two, the Mitt Romneys? He does not need them in his camp. In fact the more that they get aggravated the more Donald Trump’s popularity soars. We want a united party but if you’re talking about establishment Republicans I want them on board, but quite frankly, no, Donald Trump doesn’t need them on board to win this election.”

As far as choosing a VP, Collins will leave that to the Trump team, but he’s holding onto hope unification leads to Rice joining the ticket.

“She brings extraordinary respect and experience. And certainly being a woman she would assist with this ticket. She my kind of thinking outside the box kind of choice,” Collins added.

Paladino Not Celebrating Narrow School Board Re-Election

Former New York gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino appeared to win his second term on the Buffalo Public School Board on Tuesday night. Paladino went to bed with a 107 vote lead over 18-year-old high school senior Austin Harig. There are 140 absentee ballots yet to be counted.

While Paladino is likely to hold on to his seat, it appears he’ll return as a minority member – a prospect Paladino didn’t seem too optimistic about.

“What you’re going to see now is poor, uninformed, unable leadership drive this district further into an incompetent and in many cases corrupt mode that it has been falling into for a long time now,” Paladino said.

Paladino said his “narrow” victory over Harig felt hollow, claiming Harig was just suspended from school for tardiness.

“I don’t understand why a $1 billion institution would be relegated to the immaturity and absolutely ‘off the reservation’ ability of an 18-year-old kid. But that’s who they supported. And I narrowly beat him. Narrowly,” Paladino said.

The Erie County Board of Elections confirms the turnout was half of what it was three years ago when Paladino won convincingly. Two years later, Paladino backed candidates who helped win control of the board.

“The reform group was in the process of taking our schools to a better place,” Paladino said.

Paladino accused Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz, the Democratic Party, the Buffalo Teachers Federation and the AFL-CIO of teaming up to “buy” the election.

“They knew how to buy it, Paladino said. “It was unfortunate that the people couldn’t see it coming because our press is so lacking. But today was a bad day for the City of Buffalo.”

The Buffalo businessman has devoted the past few months to the presidential campaign of Donald Trump. Two Paladino-backed candidates failed to get their names on the ballot and lost write-in campaigns, including the current board’s president.

As Paladino continues to consider another run for governor in 2018, his commitment to the school board going forward seems uncertain.

“We’ll see how I feel tomorrow. Right now I don’t feel too good about what’s happened,” Paladino said. “At some point someone has to get a hold of this monster and do something about it. We tried.”

Western New York Congressman Says Potential Democrat Attacks on Trump Hypocritical

A day after Western New York Republican Chris Collins became the first sitting congressional representative to back Donald Trump for President, he took things a step further. During an appearance on CNN, Collins forcefully defended the GOP frontrunner.

When asked by Jake Tapper if past comments that some deem demeaning to women would be used against Trump by Democrats in the general election, Collins was quick to respond.

“I can tell you the republican response is ‘Anyone but Hillary.’ I don’t know that Hillary would even have the audacity to take Donald Trump on his stance with women, given her stance with Monica Lewinsky and her husband and all of the past misdeeds of Bill Clinton. She basically stood by her husband and all of his actions and in fact demonized the very victim of his actions. I don’t think Hillary Clinton would even then be as disingenuous to suggest she’s going to go after Bill,” Collins said.

The former Erie County Executive, a successful businessman himself, isn’t necessarily known to make biting partisan attacks. Collins response may signal Trump’s best argument to unify the GOP if he does win the primary.

“Again, anyone but Hillary,” Collins said.

Judge Dismisses Three Sexual Harassment Lawsuits Against Former Buffalo Area Assemblyman

A day after the final report into the sexual harassment accusations surrounding former state Assemblyman Dennis Gabryszak was released, Gabryszak’s attorney announced a judge dismissed the civil lawsuits of three of his accusers.

Buffalo-based attorney Terry Connors told Time Warner Cable News Buffalo a judge dismissed the cases of Trina Tardone, Emily Trimper and former TV host Kristy Mazurek.  The cases were reportedly dismissed because the statute of limitations, which is three years, passed before the lawsuits were filed.

Connors said the judge is also limiting the number of claims in the remaining lawsuits to two rather than 80.

The judge issued the ruling last week. Gabryszak, 64, of Cheektowaga retired in January 2014 following sexual harassment allegations from seven separate staffers.

The report, released Wednesday by JCOPE, lays out a string of “sexually inappropriate behavior” by Gabryszak, including one incident in which he told a female staffer he was “aroused” when talking about going to strip clubs.  He would ask the woman to get him information on his cell phone or iPad, knowing she would view pictures of naked women or escort service information.

The report concluded Gabryszak broke the public officer’s law through the sexual harassment of legislative aides and the misuse of public resources for political purposes.

Hochul to Stump For Clinton In Iowa This Weekend

Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul is headed to Iowa this weekend to help support Democratic Presidential hopeful Hillary Rodham Clinton.  Hochul is scheduled to appear at a number of “Women for Hillary” events throughout the Hawkeye state on Sunday.

The ties between Hochul and Clinton date back to Clinton’s days in the U.S. Senate.  Clinton has enjoyed strong support from Western New York Democrats in the past, and that’s continued into this election cycle.

Hochul was seen as a Clinton ally during her days as the Erie County Clerk, and during her time in Congress.  Former President Bill Clinton returned the favor in 2012 stumping for Hochul during an unsuccessful re-election bid.

Hochul has been the face of the Cuomo Administration’s effort to push women’s equality initiatives.  In this case she said her support of Clinton transcends gender.

“I’m not supporting Hillary Clinton because she’s a woman.  I’m supporting her because as she demonstrated in the debate the other night, she’s the most qualified.  She’s the toughest.  When it comes to dealing with Putin and other leaders around the world, I want Hillary Clinton out there backing the United States,” said Hochul.

Paladino On FBN: Trump Should Pick Me As Running Mate

Is former Republican Gubernatorial Candidate and Buffalo Businessman Carl Paladino making a case to become Donald Trump’s running mate?  It certainly appeared that way Thursday during an appearance on the Fox Business Network.

During a segment on “Cavuto Coast to Coast” Paladino unveiled a “Trump/Paladino” bumper sticker when asked who the GOP front runner should choose as his running mate.  Paladino then suggested he’d be a good choice because he’d have no problem telling Trump when he didn’t agree with him on a subject.

Paladino later clarified to Time Warner Cable News Buffalo that despite having a bumper sticker made, he was simply joking.

“This was all in jest.  I’m not anywhere near that point in my life,” Paladino said.

Control Over Rochester Photonics Initiative Still The Subject Of Debate

About two months after the tug of war over where a $600 million photonics center in Rochester should be located went public, it appears the infighting is far from over.  SUNY Polytechnic, which has consistently described itself as the lead contract designee through the Department of Defense, seemed to rekindle that battle on Monday.

“I was asked to do this to establish and strengthen relationships in the business community,” said Former Lt. Governor Bob Duffy.

SUNY Polytechnic appointed Duffy, who currently heads the Rochester Business Alliance, to lead the AIM Photonics Leadership Council. Duffy said the council will be in charge of strategy and will make key decisions for the institute that’s expected to generate hundreds if not thousands of local jobs.

“As I’ve been told this is the decision-making group for AIM Photonics. It is my hope, first and foremost, that we fulfill and really go beyond the expectation of the DOD for this effort,” said Duffy.

As a former mayor and police chief, Duffy remains a popular figure in Rochester, but his appointment appears to put him odds with some his former political allies.

“This is not a SUNY Poly initiative.  It’s an initiative of AIM Photonics and RIT (Rochester Institute of Technology) and the U of R (University of Rochester) have equal standing here,” said State Assembly Majority Leader Joe Morelle.

Morelle joined Congresswoman Louise Slaughter in August to criticize SUNY Polytechnic Institute President Dr. Alain Kaloyeros and his apparent unwillingness to communicate with the other partners in the photonics center.  Kaloyeros’ appointment of his friend did little to alleviate his concerns

“The good news Bob Duffy is known to us, the troubling part is that this was done without the consultation of the partners and that’s a consistent and persistent criticism of this,” Morelle said.

Morelle’s understanding of Duffy’s role, and the responsibility the leadership council will have over the project seems to be different than Duffy’s.  Morelle described the body as a technical advisory board and said an overarching governance board, appointed by the Governor, will take the lead.

“Well I think the Governor needs to make the appointments to the AIM Photonics Board so we don’t have individual players who are making unilateral decision that may not be in the interests of the initiatives going forward,” Morelle said.

According to the Governor’s Office, the seven-person governance board would be made up of members from the governor’s office, SUNY, University of Rochester and RIT.  The board was announced shortly after those involved got into the aforementioned public dispute about where the center’s headquarters should go.

According to SUNY, The Leadership Council and Governance Board serve different but complimentary roles and responsibilities.  One focuses on strategy and technical matters, while the other focuses on business and economic development.

It said both boards are co-equal entities that will work together to ensure the successful growth and expansion of the photonics institute.  The Leadership Council, as required by the Department of Defense, will focus on the strategic planning and technical direction of the institute while the governance board will help oversee and implement business outreach and economic development strategy.

Duffy believes the governance board will make recommendations to the council he is leading, not the other way around.  He also downplayed the dispute between Kaloyeros and the other partners.

“If the disagreements and discussions were kept more private then this would not have been a story.  It is my belief; any vestige of bad feelings does not exist. If it does exist, I would put it on the individual,” said Duffy.

Duffy said he’ll know more about who the other members of the Leadership Council are during the group’s first meeting in Albany next Tuesday.

In the meantime, Morelle is hoping the Governor will clear up the confusion and appoint a local expert to the seven-member governance board.

“Rob Clark is one of the leading experts on optics and Photonics in the world and he was the one who chaired this until yesterday.  And his removal was troubling,” Morelle said.

Morelle is keenly aware the back and forth is bad for the future of the project and hopes all parties get on the same page soon.

“I think the last thing that we would want to see, I think the last thing the department of defense would like to see are the individual partners in this going off on their own, with their own agendas.  And that’s troubling to me and yet I think that’s what’s going to happen unless we can get SUNY Poly to act like a contributing member of a community instead of acting in their own interests,” Morelle added.

Erie County Executive Explains Investigation; AG’s Office Says Case Closed

It was story that around lunchtime appeared to have the potential to shake-up the race for Erie County Executive.  Just hours later, the Attorney General’s office seemed to mute the “alarm bells” Mark Poloncarz’s opponent was ringing.

The report, which was published online by City and State NY, detailed an AG investigation into the Erie County Department of Public Works.  Specifically, the report referenced wrongdoing by county employees, failing to competitively bid the first two phases of a reconstruction project.

“He has an obligation to come out and say what he knew, when he knew it and why he’s been keeping it a secret for the last four years,” said Poloncarz’s GOP Challenger Ray Walter.

Just minutes after Walter’s Tuesday afternoon press conference wrapped up Poloncarz called one of his own to, as Walter put it, “say what he knew.”

“I run a clean administration and people are out there trying to use this, especially since it’s election season to say Mark Poloncarz’s administration was involved in an investigation.  My administration uncovered the information and the evidence that pertains to potential improprieties,” Poloncarz said.

According to Poloncarz, the accusations date back to 2010 and 2011, under the administration of former County Executive Chris Collins.  After installing his own DPW Commissioner and Highway Department personnel, he said possible falsified claims for Consolidated Highway Improvement Program or C.H.I.P.S were brought to light.

The county, working with the State Department of Transportation, re-appropriated $2.5 million of questionable reimbursements to other projects.  Rather than go public Poloncarz decided to turn things over to the Attorney General.

“I didn’t want people to think that I was leading an investigation to basically kick dirt on the grave of Christopher Collins. I felt it was important that this matter be reviewed by an independent source,” Poloncarz said.

That source, the AG’s office, confirmed to Time Warner Cable News it did look into the matter.  A spokesperson released this statement:

“In January 2013, County Executive Mark Poloncarz requested that our office look into alleged past issues related to competitive bidding for projects at the Erie County Department of Public Works. After a thorough review, and with the full support and cooperation of County Executive Poloncarz, our office closed the case with no further action.”

Poloncarz told us to the best of his knowledge nobody who was under investigation still works for the county.  Poloncarz hopes speaking out will bring the matter to a close.

“I felt that the truth needed to get out and I didn’t want people to assume that my administration did something wrong because that’s not the case. We did nothing wrong.”

Walter still questions why a source told City and State that the target of the investigation was a “recently” terminated county worker. Following Poloncarz’s press conference a Walter spokesperson said “we look forward to further tough questions from the media.”

Former County Executive and current Congressman Chris Collins declined comment on the matter telling us it appeared everything had been cleared up.

Protest Planned After Report Buffalo Billion Project Lowered Minority Hiring Goals

The same day Governor Cuomo announced a Massachusetts-based solar company was investing $700 million and bringing up to 1,000 new jobs to Batavia, he continued to face questions over another solar-based project in Buffalo.  This, as several Buffalo-based community groups are planning to protest, claiming minority hiring goals on the construction project were lowered.

“I never heard that and I don’t believe that’s right,” Cuomo told reporters in Batavia on Wednesday.

Buffalo’s Investigative Post was the first to report state officials had agreed to lower the goals from 25 to 15 percent.  Up to 1,500 construction workers were expected to be working by this fall to get the multi-million dollar solar panel manufacturing plant up and running by next year.

“We have what’s called an MWBE (Minority and Women Business Enterprises) quota requirement on projects and I’ve never heard that the Solar City one hasn’t met that,” Cuomo added.

Several groups including B.U.I.L.D. of Buffalo, We Are Women Warriors, and Concerned Clergy of WNY are planning a protest Friday morning in front of SolarCity’s South Park Avenue construction site.  Their stated goal is to “get answers from L.P. Ciminelli and the building trades unions.”

The Governor’s office did not offer any further comment on reports the minority hiring goals were lowered.  The protest is scheduled for Friday at 10:30a.m.

Ex-Staffer Accusing Assemblywoman Of Sexual Harassment Hires Attorney Who Sued Gabryszak

The former Legislative staffer accusing Western New York Assemblywoman Angela Wozniak of sexual harassment has hired an attorney. It’s the same attorney who represented six women who raised similar complaints against Wozniak’s predecessor, former Assemblyman Dennis Gabryszak.

Time Warner Cable News Reporter Ryan Whalen has learned Wozniak’s accuser, Elias Farah, hired Niagara Falls-based attorney John Bartolomei. Bartolomei represented all but one of Gabryszak’s accusers, many of them former staffers, in 2013.

Gabryszak retired soon after the accusations came to light. That cleared the way for Wozniak, a Republican, to win the Democratic-leaning Cheektowaga-based Assembly seat, last November.

In the Gabryszak case, Bartolomei’s clients sought an astounding total of more than $2.6 billion in damages from the former Assemblyman, his Chief of Staff, the State Assembly and others. Bartolomei has not responded to several requests for comment on the Wozniak complaint.

As Whalen first reported last month, Farah’s claims are being reviewed by the Assembly Ethics Committee. Wozniak was scheduled to be the last person interviewed by an outside law professor brought in to conduct a preliminary investigation.

Wozniak is represented by Buffalo-based attorney Steven Cohen. Cohen has spoken to several media sources denouncing the claims against his client, but has since has since been advised by the Ethics Committee to keep the proceedings confidential.