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Seven Days: The Straight Dope From the Week That Was

McCarley Gardens sale announced

On Monday, April 5, the smell of grilling hot dogs and hamburgers filled the parking lot of the Bennett W. Smith, Sr. Family Life Center, as hundreds gathered to witness the much-ballyhooed signing of some papers representing an agreement wherein the Oak-Michigan Housing Development Corporation will sell the HUD-subsidized McCarley Gardens to the UB Foundation for $15 million. Oak Michigan is one of the many spinoff organizations of St. John Baptist Church. The UB Foundation is a 501c3 that claims (according to tax forms) to provide “support services to the State University of New York at Buffalo by assisting in the furtherance of their tax-exempt purpose.” Apparently, real estate speculation is a less publicized role UB Foundation plays.

For any sale to go through, it will have to be approved by HUD, but HUD has been left in the dark thus far. According to St. John Pastor Michael Chapman, CEO of Oak-Michigan, he has been in discussions with UB for six or seven years concerning the property. That would have been before he signed the 2005 full mark-to-market renewal contract for McCarley with HUD, which was to run for 20 years, or until 2025.

HUD should require a very strong argument to approve the sale, because McCarley Gardens is a great success story for subsidized housing. Nevertheless, New York State legislators Crystal Peoples-Stokes, Bill Stachowski, and Antoine Thompson prayed before the crowd for the deal to go through at both the federal and state level, as did Mayor Byron Brown.

UB President John Simpson is straight rolling in dough.

UB Foundation an economic driver for some

Many UB alumni know the UB Foundation thanks to the frequent phone calls they make to old grads, soliciting money for the alma mater. What never gets covered in the appeal pitch is the fact that, according to their 2007 990 tax form, compensation for the five highest paid UB Foundation employees totaled over $1.5 million. Who were these employees in 2007? Russell W. Bessette, VP Health Services ($179,520); Michael E. Cain, Medical School Dean ($233,603); Scott D. Nostaja, VP of Human Resources ($297,153); David L. Dunn, VP Health Science ($350,000); John B. Simpson, University President ($489,306).

This is in addition to the money these characters are paid by the State. Simpson’s 2009 state salary was $265,000, for example. But in 2005 the UB Foundation gave him an additional $212,556, and in 2006, they threw him an extra $216,767. Dunn only got $117,857 extra from the UB Foundation in 2005, but he got a raise to $350,000 from them for both 2006 and 2007. In addition, he currently receives over $380,000 from the state.

The tax return also suggests that contractors for professional services also do well from the UB Foundation. Here’s how the top five in that category stacked up: KPMG, LLP ($102,100 for an audit); Hurwitz & Fine PC ($110,829 legal fees), Bond, Schoeneck & King PLLC ($116,008 legal fees); and Hodgson Russ LLP ($429,666 legal fees).

The top five independent contractors for other services did even better: Russell Reynolds Associates, Inc. ($342,682 consulting); Travers Collins & Company ($364,979 consulting); Greater Talent Network, Inc. ($379,215 speaker contract); Computer Solutions & Software Intl. ($406,796 consulting); Ruffalo Cody, Inc. ($572,346 consulting). Ruffalo Cody is the Iowa company hired by the UB Foundation to provide “strategic fundraising and enrollment management services.”

Thompson teaches Poles about Dyngus Day

Monday was a busy day indeed for politicking. Like any good ethnic festival, Dyngus Day drew our elected class out among their constituents. Over at the Corpus Christi Church, just a couple blocks east of the Broadway Market, a brace of politicians and their staffers attended the annual Dyngus Day luncheon. Among the electeds on hand were Common Council President Dave Franczyk, who offered some remarks before the buffet opened; Erie County Comptroller Mark Poloncarz, his newly clean-shaven face indicating that his Al-Gore-in-the-wilderness phase is over; State Senator Bill Stachowski, exceptionally dour on the occasion; Common Councilmen Mickey Kearns and Mike LoCurto; and City Court Judge Debra Givens, who is shooting for a seat on the State Supreme Court. Representing State Senator Antoine Thompson at the event were staffers Liz Smith and Bill Nowak, who handed out flyers that offered to the mostly Polish crowd some fairly shallow, perfunctory information on the origins of Dyngus Day and a big photo of Thompson. “I’m glad that my taxes are paying for Antoine to print Wikipedia articles on political flyers,” one man said. Poloncarz, who rarely betrays a sense of humor, said to his table, “Where is Antoine anyway? He’s not in Albany. Why isn’t he here? Is he in Jamaica?

The Stone in Paladino's soup

While Western New York’s Polish diaspora converged on the taverns and public places of old Polonia to celebrate the end of Lent, New York’s Tea Partiers converged on the Ellicott Square Building for developer Carl Paladino’s official campaign kickoff. (Did you hear? He’s running for governor.) By 5:30, the crowd filled the atrium. The lines at the bar and the carving station were nearly unnavigable. Outside, folks were enjoined to sign the side of a bus called the Freedom Express. Inside, among the more unusual of Paladino’s guest was political operative Roger Stone, who crossed paths with an AV correspondent. If you don’t know Stone’s name, you know his work: He orchestrated the “Brooks Brothers riots” of well-attired Republican protesters who tried to prevent the Florida recount in the aftermath of the 2000 presidential election. He cut his teeth doing dirty work for Richard Nixon. As a consultant to former State Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno, recently convicted on corruption charges, Stone led an all-out assault on former Governor Eliot Spitzer that helped to usher Spitzer out of office.

Stone’s connection to the Paladino camp is Paladino’s campaign manager, Michael Caputo, a protege who assisted Stone in his anti-Spitzer campaign. (Caputo’s most recent project previous to the Paladino campaign was the aborted effort to draft CNBC host Larry Kudlow to run against Chuck Schumer.) We’re told that Stone has no role in the campaign, although he was certainly in the loop last week, when Caputo emailed a radio spot to both Paladino and Stone for review.

The Albany Times-Union’s Jimmy Vielkind spotted Stone, too, and managed to snap a photo. Vielkind first saw Stone in a private reception whose guests included M&T Bank Chairman Bob Wilmers, a frequent target of Paladino’s barbs.

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