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Campbell quits county control board Expenses billed by vice chairman may have been inflated, some directors say

P. David Campbell resigned as vice chairman of Erie County's control board Thursday after leading a more than two-hour session that began a new era without Edward V. Regan, the chairman who officially resigned the day before.

"Over the last few weeks, I have been in several conversations with the governor's office," Campbell said as business drew to a close in the Buffalo Convention Center. "I find myself in a situation where my character, integrity and honesty has been challenged. I don't need that. . . ."

"At the conclusion of this meeting, I am resigning my position with the Erie County Fiscal Stability Authority," he said, adding later, "I have not done anything that was motivated by anything other than to help Erie County."

Campbell and other directors serve without pay, but state law lets them bill for "actual necessary expenses incurred in the performance" of their duties. Since the authority took shape in late July, Campbell had sought $1,328 to reimburse him for working lunches, mileage to meetings and appointments and a $334 trip to New York City in late July.

In some cases, there were expenses to meet or dine with people who had no direct connection to the authority or to Erie County government -- for example, M&T Bank Chairman Robert G. Wilmers, also a member of Buffalo's control board.

But after Campbell's departure Thursday, other directors disclosed that the costs to park at a particular business lunch at the Buffalo Club may have been exaggerated, suggesting Campbell, a retired president of Dunlop Tire Corp., had taken advantage of taxpayers and would suffer embarrassment if the disclosure received widespread media attention.

Campbell had told TV station WB 49 that he received a parking receipt for the Jan. 13 Buffalo Club meeting but did not produce one. Today, however, the authority did provide a $6 receipt from the Pearl Street auto ramp, where Campbell parked before spending some time working at the authority's office in Ellicott Square that day, said Executive Director Lee Van Riper. Van Riper said he then drove them to the Buffalo Club for lunch. Campbell had sought $24 in reimbursement for parking and mileage that day.

Campbell's expense reports were also far less detailed than those presented by Secretary Stanley J. Keysa, who noted his travels for authority business to the mile. Campbell did not provide mileage readings. Campbell, Regan and Keysa were the only directors who have filed requests for reimbursement for authority business.

There had been public speculation Campbell might resign. He and Regan had left some members feeling closed out of the decision-making loop, and they resented it. Privately, members said they didn't want Gov. George E. Pataki to name Campbell as the next chairman, and there was no indication this week the governor would do so.

Still, Campbell in recent weeks had met individually with directors to mend fences and to put the control board on an even keel. At Thursday's meeting, Campbell often spoke as though he would be with the group for the foreseeable future. Then he announced his departure and refused to speak with reporters as he donned his coat and left.

"As far as I am concerned he has taken a bad rap," said member Anthony Baynes, an Amherst businessman who didn't like it when Campbell hired a leader for the control board's new Office of Management and Productivity without board approval. "He's a good person," Baynes said. "He worked 25 hours a week for the authority."

Before Campbell announced his decision, Keysa had suggested the members write a letter to Regan, thanking him for his months of service. Then, Keysa suggested the other members write a letter to Campbell thanking him as well.

Pataki appoints four of the authority's seven members, including the chairman and vice chairman. It will be up to the governor to name the replacements.

The control board began its post-Regan era Thursday by setting its own house in order with a review of its bylaws and with members saying they would like to see meeting documents well before the scheduled date. One member, John Johnson, insisted that all vendor contracts receive board approval.

In one recent episode, the authority's leadership had hired an outside lawyer to write a letter to the community inviting ideas about government collaboration. The full board never approved such an expense, and amid the protests, the local lawyer later waived payment.

But directors also lamented a stinging legal bill that became public Thursday in a review of 2005 expenses.

State officials had assigned the noted Wall Street firm Hawkins, Delafield and Wood to the control board in its early days, before members had met for the first time and could hire their own lawyer. The firm was authorized to charge $40,000 a month, and did so, even though it sent a lawyer to just two authority meetings. In total, Hawkins, Delafield and Wood was paid $80,000 in taxpayer money.

"I was not happy," said the board's general counsel, Gregory Stamm. "The chairman was not happy."

Stamm said the bill was paid under protest.

The panel learned it will be difficult for the government to identify more than $50 million in savings this year. If the county falls short, the chances are good that taxpayers will face another tax increase in 2007.


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