Projects don’t have to be worth a Buffalo Billion to draw the interest of contractors or the scrutiny of investigators. A former University at Buffalo maintenance supervisor is accused of delivering a $1 million painting contract to a friend in exchange for $100,000 – offenses that allegedly were uncovered after the painter failed to file his state paperwork.
Former Sloan resident Dean Yerry, 63, was arraigned in Erie County Court Friday afternoon on a felony charge of bribe receiving and a misdemeanor count of conspiracy to prevent competitive bidding or offering on public contracts.
Yerry was arrested earlier this month at his retirement home in the Las Vegas suburb of Henderson, Nev. The charges grew out of an investigation by state Inspector General Catherine Leahy Scott, coordinated with prosecutors in the District Attorney’s Public Integrity Unit.
Before his retirement in November 2014, Yerry was the campus living maintenance supervisor at UB. In that role, he oversaw projects in three student housing complexes and Greiner Hall. The indictment charges that between Dec. 1, 2012 and Nov. 30, 2014, Yerry conspired to assure that a friend of his received two dormitory painting contracts that together were worth $1 million.
In exchange for the contract, Yerry allegedly he received more than $100,000, according to Assistant District Attorney Paul Bonanno.
The crimes came to light during the course of an earlier investigation by the Department of Labor, according to Acting District Attorney Michael J. Flaherty Jr. — an investigation prompted by the fact that the painter didn’t understand what’s involved when taking on a state contract.
“He wasn’t a professional commercial painter,” Flaherty said. “He did small jobs.”
Flaherty said the painter was a neighbor or friend of Yerry’s who previously had only done house painting and other such work. When he didn’t file monthly payroll records, as required by law for all state contracts, Labor investigators started looking into possible violations of New York’s prevailing wage regulations.
Yerry wasn’t on their radar then, but as the probe continued, the contract irregularities were discovered .
The painter eventually pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges for the payroll offenses and Bonanno said he could be a witness should Yerry’s case go to trial.
Yerry was an unlikely suspect to be involved in a financial scandal. He was honored in 2013 by the Greater Buffalo Building Owners & Managers Association as Building Manager of the Year and his coworkers praised his skill and work ethic. The biography published with news of the honor says the Yerry started at UB as a locksmith in 1985 and became a supervisor in 1994.
He is described as a “consummate problem solver” and “someone who goes out of his way to help others any way he can.”
Yerry’s annual salary from UB topped out at $54,796 in 2014, the year he retired. That same year, he sold his modest home in Cheektowaga for $59,000, according to real estate records, as he prepared to move to Nevada.
In asking for bail Friday afternoon, Yerry’s attorney told Judge Thomas P. Franczyk that Yerry had planned to live in Henderson with his mother and other family members. However, the mother has since died, the attorney said, and Yerry put the Nevada house up for sale. It recently sold for $268,000, according to a Nevada property website. That was around the same time as Yerry’s arrest.
His lawyer said that if Yerry is released, he and his wife plan to stay at their son’s house in Buffalo until the case is resolved. Franczyk set bail at $100,000.