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Highway chief returns campaign money to group

The West Seneca highway superintendent has returned $520 in campaign contributions he had received from a local youth hockey group in apparent violation of federal tax laws.

Matt English said he met with the treasurer of the West Seneca Youth Hockey Association on Wednesday, the day after The Buffalo News reported that the group had apparently violated federal law by giving him the money. English gave the treasurer a check for $520, he said.

"By no means do I want the organization to lose their nonprofit status over this," he said.

The issue was brought up by Albert Petko, English's opponent in the Democratic primary for highway superintendent. He discovered a total of $870 the hockey group had given to local political campaigns in the past two years, along with $150 it gave to the West Seneca Democratic Committee a few years ago.

The largest single contribution was in April, when the hockey association paid for 26 of its board members and their guests to attend a fundraiser for English. Each ticket cost $20.

As a nonprofit organization, the West Seneca Youth Hockey Association is prohibited under federal tax laws from contributing to political campaigns. Petko said he alerted the state attorney general and the IRS about the contributions.

Dick Lynch, the president of the hockey association, did not return phone calls for this report.

When Lynch was initially contacted about the contributions, he acknowledged the group has been giving money to political campaigns for at least the 10 years he has been president. He said the hockey association contributes generously to charities, as well, and gives money to any political candidate who requests money.

"It's nothing that we hide," he said. "We itemize every single check that goes out to every person, whether it's political or charitable. We have no idea it's wrong or illegal."

English also initially defended the group's right to give money to political campaigns. And he cited the good work the group has done in West Seneca for many years. He has been involved with the group for more than 20 years as a parent and a coach. The highway superintendent in a news release late this week maintained that "this is a moot point, and the Association has done nothing but good for the community."

Nonetheless, English said he returned the money to avoid any possible negative consequences for the group.

e-mail: mpasciak@buffnews.com

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