After enduring a wave of bad publicity over his failure to pay property taxes on houses and vacant property he owns in Lancaster, Cheektowaga and Alden, Lancaster Supervisor Dino J. Fudoli has paid off the $17,000 he owed to Erie County.
On Thursday, and over the previous week, Fudoli settled the $17,146.03 he owed for 2011 and 2012 on five properties he owns in whole or in part in the three communities, according to Erie County real property records.
The first-year supervisor had held off paying the tax bill until he could apply the proceeds from the sale of a family-owned parcel – the sale closed last week – and he bristled at criticism of what he considered an ordinary business decision.
"To me, it was a nonstory," Fudoli said Thursday, before conceding, "As an elected official, I can understand how it looks."
Fudoli, a Republican, blamed his political opponents for the revelation of his unpaid property taxes, which were reported in The Buffalo News and other media outlets. Paul Tarapacki, interim chairman of the Town of Lancaster Democratic Committee, declined to comment.
The supervisor and his family own a total of about 35 acres of land at and near the intersections of Transit Road, Genesee Street and Rehm Road in Cheektowaga.
Fudoli opted not to pay property taxes on five properties located there and elsewhere until he was able to sell a vacant parcel owned in trust by his father, Ralph, at 4989 Genesee St.
Fudoli insisted that business owners as a strategy often "float" their property taxes for a period of a year or two, and he doesn't believe he did anything wrong by engaging in this practice, as long as the properties don't go into foreclosure.
"There's no breaking of any rules," he said.
Fudoli over the past week paid Erie County the following amounts, online property records show:
*$8,065.36 for 2011 and 2012 on a vacant commercial parcel at Transit and Rehm, Cheektowaga, owned by Fudoli.
*$4,521.27 for 2011 and 2012 on a residence on the Cheektowaga side of Transit, owned by Fudoli and his wife, Darcie.
*$2,102.22 for this year on vacant property on the Lancaster side of Transit, owned by Fudoli and his brother, Nicole.
*$2,046.91 for this year for a residence on Westwood Road, Alden, owned by Fudoli and his brother, who lives there.
*$410.27 for this year for a vacant property on Rehm in Cheektowaga owned by Fudoli and his brother.
The Genesee Street property that Fudoli was selling has a market-rate assessment of $346,065, a figure he considers outlandish because of the presence of wetlands on much of the property.
Fudoli said in August that he had reached an agreement months earlier to sell the parcel to a Bella Vista Group entity for $140,000.
The sale closed Sept. 20 at a price of $130,000, according to records on file in the Erie County Clerk's Office. The owner of the property in recent days paid off the $25,505.79 owed on 4989 Genesee as well.
Fudoli also came under fire because, while he was negotiating with Bella Vista officials over the sale of the Genesee Street parcel, he voted in his capacity as chairman of the Lancaster Industrial Development Agency to approve an extension of a tax-break package for a development, the Lancaster Flex Park, owned by another Bella Vista entity.
While some good-government groups told The News that Fudoli should have disclosed the pending sale before voting in May on the tax-break extension, the supervisor continues to insist the transactions had nothing to do with each other.
"It's such a stretch" to connect the two, Fudoli said Thursday.
A financial disclosure form that Fudoli filled out and filed with the town also linked the supervisor to a parcel at 6354 Transit, Depew, owned by RMF Holding Corp., which had an outstanding tax bill of $15,382.26.
Fudoli's disclosure form lists him as vice president of the firm, but he told The News on Thursday that he erred in filling out the form and that he is not an officer of the company.
Fudoli said he does not have an ownership stake in his father's company, which he does stand to inherit, but the payments on his car are made through RMF Holding.