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Buffalo Urban League sues Erie County comptroller over critical report

The Buffalo Urban League on Monday moved forward with a lawsuit against Erie County Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw over a critical report.

Urban League officials contend the December report unfairly damaged the community organization’s reputation, as did the comptroller’s follow-up comments calling the Urban League guilty of either “gross mismanagement” or “outright fraud.”

“Correcting the record and clearing the Buffalo Urban League’s good name is the only remedy we seek,” said Brenda McDuffie, executive director of the not-for-profit human services agency.

Mychajliw continues to stand by his comments and the report. He said he will not retract them. His staff members said they are convinced the report will withstand legal scrutiny. The report was issued following a complaint by Buffalo Urban League preventative services staff, who had called into the comptroller’s Whistleblower Hotline.

“We offered to work with the Buffalo Urban League as partners to improve their organization,” Mychajliw said in a statement Monday. “They chose a path that distracts them from their core mission. Their unfortunate choice is truly sad. We stand by the work our auditors completed on this comprehensive and thorough review.”

The report from the Comptroller’s Office concluded the organization overbilled the county by tens of thousands of dollars, failed to properly train its staff, failed to protect children’s privacy in digital records or honor Department of Social Services reporting requirements. As a result of the comptroller’s review, the agency conducted its own internal analysis and refunded the county $30,576. It has pushed back other report findings.

Urban League officials said they believe the report contained “both factual and procedural errors and does not follow widely accepted professional standards.”

They also criticized Mychajliw’s comments as inflammatory and far removed from the actual findings of the report.

The money to pay for the Urban League’s lawsuit in State Supreme Court will come from the agency’s operating funds, said Urban League Chairman Michael Reville.

Reville said he did not know how much the legal action will cost.

He called the lawsuit necessary because the comptroller’s negative report and comments affect the agency’s outside ratings and could harm the ability for the Urban League to raise money in the future.

Mychajliw, however, noted the expense of a lawsuit.

“Resources the Buffalo Urban League wastes on high-priced lawyers should be used to serve the poor,” he said. “This is a sad day for the poverty stricken children and families the Buffalo Urban League should be serving.”