In the murky world of Niagara County Republican politics, Glenn S. Aronow never seems to go away.
The Lockport public relations executive has assumed a host of party-sponsored roles over the years – Niagara County legislator, staffer for the State Senate majority in Buffalo and aide to former Sen. George D. Maziarz, R-Newfane.
At one point in 2009, the state paid $90,000 to a Senate staffer who said Aronow sexually harassed her. He denied the allegation. When Aronow later resigned from his Senate office after the settlement was paid, state prosecutors claim campaign funds were secretly used to continue compensating Aronow.
Even as prosecutors were honing in on Aronow's payments from the 2014 campaign, the remnants of Maziarz's once powerful Niagara County organization continued to find a way to keep him employed. Records obtained by The Buffalo News through the Freedom of Information Law show Aronow's Regency Communications firm received almost $73,000 in consulting contracts between 2014 and 2017 at Western Regional Off-Track Betting. The agency's two top executives are former Niagara County GOP chairmen who migrated to the betting agency once Maziarz retreated from the public scene.
Aronow, who faces no charges, is a central figure in the Maziarz corruption trial launched by Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman that begins on March 5. State prosecutors accuse Maziarz of overseeing a plan for paying Aronow through concealed campaign funds to avoid controversy stemming from the sexual harassment settlement.
But the Batavia headquarters of WROTB now also figures in the case. A source close to the case indicated Monday that Maziarz lawyers have asked Albany County Judge Peter A. Lynch to issue subpoenas to WROTB for information they deem pertinent to the case.
WROTB shares deep roots with the Niagara County Republican Party and the political machine once controlled by Maziarz. They include:
- Former Niagara County Republican Chairman Henry F. Wojtaszek, who has pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor election law charge connected to the Maziarz case and who is expected to testify at the trial, earns $174,510 as president of WROTB. The source indicated he received a subpoena for the trial in the past few days requesting his testimony in his "personal capacity," not as head of WROTB.
- Scott P. Kiedrowski, former chief of staff to state Sen. Robert G. Ortt, R-North Tonawanda, recently resigned as Niagara County Republican chairman. He is WROTB vice president of operations at $104,264 yearly.
- Several others with connections to the party or the North Tonawanda home turf of Wojtaszek, Kiedrowski and Maziarz also work for WROTB. Richard Winter, for example, was a longtime Maziarz supporter and former Senate staffer who since 2012 has earned $126,000 representing the agency in Albany as a lobbyist. His son, Elliot, is a WROTB director who gets stipends for meetings in addition to health insurance, according to Wojtaszek.
WROTB points out that Democrats from throughout the state’s 15-county western region are also connected to the agency, with many serving on its board of directors. And it notes that 11 of its officials earning more than $50,000 hail from Erie County and nine from Monroe County, compared to five from Niagara County. But its top two – Wojtaszek and Kiedrowski – are not only Niagara County Republicans but former chairmen of the party.
Once key members of the Maziarz team, Wojtaszek waived and Aronow and Winter received immunity when they testified last March before an Albany County grand jury weighing evidence in Schneiderman’s case against the former senator. Wojtaszek also testified before a federal grand jury in 2015 when then-Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara was probing the Maziarz campaign before Schneiderman assumed the investigation. Wojtaszek was not considered a target.
Wojtaszek, husband of Niagara County District Attorney Caroline A. Wojtaszek, also runs the Batavia Downs complex and appears in its television ads.
Last year Wojtaszek agreed to a plea in which he acknowledged his failure to file a statement required by election law in connection with the payments to Aronow.
Wojtaszek acknowledged last week that Maziarz attorney E. Stewart Jones of Troy (who represents Maziarz along with Joseph M. LaTona of Buffalo) had subpoenaed WROTB records regarding the Aronow and Winter contracts as well as employee compensation. But those subpoenas expired when the original September trial was postponed until March 5.
“Both entities are happy to provide the court with materials it deems relevant to the case,” said WROTB spokeswoman Andrea Bozek of Mercury Public Affairs, referring to the agency and Wojtaszek.
Aronow did 'fantastic' job
Wojtaszek emphasizes that Aronow was hired before he became president, though he was general counsel for the agency when the consulting contracts were prepared. Aronow’s work representing WROTB before the public and developing its strategies consistently proved successful, he said.
For example, when WROTB viewed a Seneca Nation proposal for a Rochester area casino as a competitive threat, Wojtaszek said Aronow’s work helped thwart the effort.
“He utilized those skills and did a fantastic job,” Wojtaszek said during an interview in his Batavia Downs office. “Ultimately we kept casinos out of Rochester.”
Wojtaszek added that Maziarz recommended Aronow and that he received several consulting contracts over the years because of the quality of his work and the view that no admission of guilt ever stemmed from the sexual harassment claim.
“It was settled for the convenience of the parties,” he said of the claim.
Aronow offers similar answers to questions about his political longevity. He said the Niagara-based administration now running WROTB was familiar with his many position papers, speeches, political statements and automatic campaign phone scripts, as well as their success.
“The party recognized I had a talent for communication,” Aronow said. “Subsequently, I worked on dozens and dozens and dozens of campaigns, and the majority of those campaigns were successful. A lot of that was due to my communication efforts and strategies.
“I was a significant asset to George Maziarz and the political organization he built,” he added.
Aronow acknowledges his 2012 campaign payments will dominate the Maziarz trial, and that they would not have occurred if not for the sexual harassment suit. But he insists he was “100 percent opposed” at the time to settling and that he had no part in crafting the settlement.
He was told the state would attempt to recover the harassment award if he failed to sign the settlement, he said, adding it was all designed to “protect George and the fragile majority” in the Senate.
Aronow acknowledges he participated in “very personal and intimate conversations” with the woman who complained, but never initiated them. He remains “angry” about the agreement.
“This lawsuit set in motion a chain of events that has devastated me and my family to this day,” he said. “There’s not a day goes by that I wish I wasn’t stronger about defending myself and standing up to George and his pressuring me to advance his political career.”
Aronow said he is now prepared to tell the judge in the Maziarz trial the same story he told the grand jury last year.
“It will have to do with the payments and intricacies of those payments and probably why, the fact that I received those payments,” he said, “and that they did not come directly from the senator or other parties.”