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Niagara Falls Memorial to retain Maziarz as grants consultant

NIAGARA FALLS – Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center will be retaining former State Sen. George D. Maziarz as a consultant to seek out grant funding for the hospital, CEO Joseph A. Ruffolo said Friday.

The contract hasn’t been finalized, but Ruffolo said the veteran politician will be paid $2,000 to $3,000 a month. Ruffolo said the medical center board was told of the plan this month and approved it informally, without a vote. Ruffolo said he had the authority to hire Maziarz on his own.

“We’re not hiring George as an employee,” Ruffolo said. “We’re looking to retain him as a consultant to assist with economic development grants, workforce development grants, energy-efficiency grants and other potential funding sources.”

Ruffolo said Maziarz, who stepped down from the State Senate at the end of 2014 after almost 20 years in office, “has a good track record in those areas.”

Maziarz did not return a call seeking comment Friday.

The hospital chief said Maziarz has been helpful to Memorial for many years, including lining up funding for its behavioral health center at a time when the medical center wasn’t in Maziarz’s Senate district. The medical center also received a share of Seneca Niagara Casino funding, up to $750,000 a year, in a compact that Maziarz had a role in negotiating.

“George has been a good friend to Memorial since I got here in 2003,” Ruffolo said.

He said Memorial hopes to obtain money for workforce development and training in expanding medical fields such as health care coordinators and case managers, not only for Memorial employees but for students attending Niagara County Community College, Niagara University and certificate programs at the Orleans-Niagara Board of Cooperative Educational Services.

The Maziarz contract will run on a month-to-month basis, and the results will be reviewed periodically to see if they are satisfactory, Ruffolo said.

Maziarz announced in July 2014 that he was leaving the Senate, after having filed nominating petitions to run for another term. At that time, it became known that U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara of New York City was investigating undocumented use of the senator’s campaign funds.

The Buffalo News reported in October that Bharara was backing off a probe of Maziarz, who cleared a State Police background check to win confirmation to a state hydropower allocation board. The News also reported that Niagara County prosecutors and the State Attorney General’s Office were taking an interest in the activities of former Maziarz staffers.

Alicia D. Colatarci, Maziarz’s longtime chief of staff, resigned in July 2014, and former office manager Marcus R. Hall and campaign treasurer Laureen M. Jacobs also were involved in the probe, sources told The News. As of last month, Maziarz’s campaign fund, which totaled $1.12 million when he dropped out of the 2014 election race, still contained $945,000. Most of the recent expenditures were for legal expenses, according to reports posted on the state Board of Elections website.