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GORSKI ADMINISTRATION SEEKS REVERSAL OF LEASE-BACK VOTE

The Gorski administration wants the Erie County Legislature on Thursday to reverse a unanimous decision that gave the go-ahead to the county comptroller to protect the county's right in seeking a multimillion-dollar lease/lease-back arrangement in the Buffalo Bills contract.

"The comptroller asked the Legislature to illegally enter into a $50,000 no-bid contract in order to add two sentences to the Bill's lease," explained Scott Brown, spokesman for County Executive Gorski. "That is wrong according to the County Charter, and we're asking the Legislature to fix the problem."

County Comptroller Nancy A. Naples, for her part, is asking the 17 legislators to stand by the March 19 vote.

Ms. Naples, a Republican, accuses the Democratic administration of "yet another attempt" to sabotage lease/lease-back to give Gorski's proposed "sin tax" a better chance of being approved.

Gorski plans to seek a 14-cent tax per pack of cigarettes to finance the county's estimated $3 million to $5 million share of the 15-year lease.

Ms. Naples and lease/lease-back proponents say the county could net $8 million or more upfront.

"I'm continuously surprised by the administration's negative attitude toward lease-back," Ms. Naples said Tuesday. "It is a way to bring new money into the county and to take the cost of the Bills' lease off the back of the taxpayers."

Brown referred to Ms. Naples' allegations as conspiracy.

"The comptroller has more conspiracy theories than Oliver Stone," he said. "All we're trying to do is ensure that she and the Legislature follow the law, and we want to ensure that we're protecting the taxpayers' money. We still have serious concerns about her very risky proposal, which she equated to money falling from the sky."

Under Ms. Naples proposal, the county, or a public-benefit corporation designated by the parties, would lease the stadium to an investors' group and lease it back at a lower figure. Investors would benefit from tax breaks.

Democratic County Attorney Kenneth A. Schoetz and Planning Commissioner Richard M. Tobe want the Legislature to authorize Gorski, instead of Naples, to contract with legal experts on the lease/lease-back plan. They also want the Legislature to designate Schoetz to join with Ms. Naples in soliciting proposals for a lease/lease-back arrangement.

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