This year's most contested Democratic primary for County Legislature now features challenger Christina W. Bove's charges that incumbent Timothy M. Wroblewski improperly obtained insurance contracts from the Town of West Seneca.
Bove, an outgoing West Seneca Town Board member, said this week that she only recently discovered that Wroblewski served as agent for First Niagara Risk Management through her role as coordinator for the town's senior fitness program. She charges that Wroblewski was part of a "quiet, back-room deal" that switched town insurance business to his company -- First Niagara Risk Management.
"He has a right as a full-time insurance agent to make a living," Bove said. "But as an elected official, if you quietly making back-room deals, you are not doing it ethically."
Wroblewski denies any wrongdoing, explaining that he followed all rules in conducting his business with the town. Any requirements to obtain board approval, he said, rested with town officials.
"This obviously is a political allegation made a few days before a primary," Wroblewski said, adding all his transactions were conducted openly and according to regulations.
"All our commissions and everything else necessary are all filed with the State Insurance Department," he said.
Bove said she has researched 10 years worth of Town Board minutes and determined the property, casualty and auto insurance policies handled by her opponent were never approved by the Town Board.
"I checked all the board minutes and there was never a vote," she said. "The threshold for contracts [requiring board approval] is $1,700. This has to be brought before the Town Board."
Council Member Sheila Meegan, the board's insurance liaison, confirmed that the policies handled by Wroblewski were never put out for bid. But she said after joining the board last year, she pushed for a review of insurance practices. As a result, the board adopted a May resolution calling for a consultant to review all of the town's insurance practices.
"Now, we have to move in that direction," Meegan said.
Timothy J. Greenan, the former town attorney, did not return a call seeking comment. Several sources connected with town insurance policies said he is familiar with how they were handled.
Bove acknowledged that she is injecting a volatile issue into the campaign at a critical juncture -- just days before Tuesday's election. But she said she just discovered the situation after being asked to recertify her town senior wellness program, which included submitting information on insurance coverage.
"They did a good job of keeping it from me," Bove said.
Now she estimates about $800,000 worth of insurance business has been handled by First Niagara since Wroblewski became involved in 2004.
She also questions previous votes on various issues by Wroblewski in the Legislature, since his company previously held contracts with the county.
"Mr. Wroblewski should be investigated for violating ethics laws where these no bid deals have benefited him financially," Bove said. "He never disclosed any of these secret deals to the public. The man has used his elected office to enrich himself. He makes all elected officials look bad."
Wroblewski, meanwhile, says his firm saved West Seneca $58,000 just last year in new ways to provide insurance coverage -- and as much as $200,000 over the past few years. He noted that he never became involved until he left the Town Board in 2003, and reiterated that any questions about the lack of board approval should be posed to town officials.
"It was not up to us to do that," he said.