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Franczyk Asks For Investigation

Council president wants ethics board and police oversight committee to look into Stokes, the mayor, and One Sunset

David Franczyk

Despite his primary day jitters, South District Councilmember Mickey Kearns was secure in his seat for Tuesday’s Common Council meeting. All members were present for the brief meeting, during which Council President David Franczyk called for an ethics investigation into Mayor Byron Brown’s involvement in a 2007 incident that was brought to light this month involving One Sunset owner Leonard Stokes, adding to the controversy surrounding the failed restaurant.

It did not go unnoticed that the call to investigate Brown came on the day that Kearns was fighting to a primary against the mayor. But Franczyk insists the date had nothing to do with his request for an internal investigation of the Brown administration. “The primary is irrelevant to me in this,” Franczyk says.

Franczyk made requests for two investigations, one by the Buffalo Board of Ethics and another by the Police Oversight Committee, chaired by Ellicott District Councilmember Brian Davis. The Board of Ethics, an independent group of volunteer citizens, is led by local attorney Douglas Coppola, who says the board will gladly “consider this request at the next meeting” to be held Tuesday, September 22. Davis, meanwhile, says he will continue to chair the Police Oversight Committee, despite accusations that he was involved in the One Sunset affair, too. Franczyk remains adamant that he is not accusing the mayor of misconduct, but rather wishes to get the facts straight.

A September 6 Buffalo News article alleged that Leonard Stokes, while he was arrested by Buffalo police officers for possessing a stolen handicapped parking permit, insisted on Mayor Brown being called. According to the News’ sources, Stokes was escorted by police to Brown’s office on the second floor of City Hall, then was released a short time later with no charges against him. This occurred in the summer of 2007, but there is no official police record of the incident, leading many to question what went on behind closed doors. Since the article was published, Brown has refused to confirm or deny the accusations.

The next step in the One Sunset debacle will be an audit report on the Buffalo Economic Renaissance Corporation currently being assembled by the comptroller’s office. Staff at BERC—which is chaired by Brown—sidestepped the normal loan processes and requirements in order to dole out $80,000 in loans and a $30,000 grant to Stokes’ failed restaurant. BERC staff also helped Stokes get a $50,000 loan from the Erie County Industrial Development Agency.

Franczyk says Comptroller Andrew SanFilippo showed him the BERC report on Tuesday, which Franczyk describes as thorough and full of supporting evidence. One graph he describes as representing the finances of One Sunset: As the profits fall, subsidies from the city actually go up.

A preliminary audit was released two weeks ago. The audit office indicated that the full report would be complete in roughly a month.

-—ellen przepasniak

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