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No bribe offered in Hamburg ice rink project, DA says

The Erie County District Attorney's Office found no evidence of a bribe being offered in connection with a Toronto developer's proposed Hamburg sports complex.

"The district attorney’s office has determined that there is no credible evidence of a bribe, an attempted bribe or any other inducement to commit an unlawful act," the office said in a written statement.

Marty Starkman of Sportstar Capital of Toronto said he wasn't surprised by the outcome.

"I told you that when you called me last month," Starkman said. "I'm straightforward. I'm perceived as honest."

But he noted, "It's been a difficult ride."

The Town of Hamburg has proposed partnering with Sportstar Capital to develop a $30 million multipurpose sports complex including two ice rinks, a turf field, gym, snack bar and meeting rooms. Rink Management Service Corp. would operate the facility, which would be built on part of the former South Shore Golf Course.

A spokeswoman for the District Attorney's Office had confirmed the investigation last month to The Buffalo News. The office had no other comment after issuing its latest statement.

District attorney investigating report of bribe in Hamburg rink project

After news of the investigation was confirmed, two town councilmen said they favored slowing down the town's involvement in the project, particularly since the Kaleta Group has proposed a $15 million private double ice rink facility in the town.

Starkman said he hopes the public-private partnership with Sportstar will continue.

"I'd like to see it happen, hopefully the Town Board will agree. This isn't for me, this is for the town," he said.

Town Supervisor Steven J. Walters said last month he put little stock in the allegation of a bribe, and he said opponents of the town’s project have put out lies and innuendo in recent weeks. He said he was not surprised by the determination by the District Attorney's Office.

"I saw through the smoke screen right from the beginning," Walters said. "This was nothing but a political attempt to slow down the project Marty Starkman had been working on."

He challenged whoever "made this false allegation" to come forward and admit it. And he said the allegation hurt the project.

"It's created an aura of suspicion," the supervisor said. "It's sad that there are people in this community who will go to such lengths to try to hurt other people."

The town's facility would be built on 20 acres at the former South Shore Golf Course on land that would be donated to the town by David Homes. Starkman said there is very little risk to the town coffers.

A $500,000 fund would be established to cover any deficits after the complex opens. He said solar panels on the roof will pay for themselves in five years, and greatly reduce the cost of electricity to the facility. The complex would be leased to the town for 30 years, then the town would own the facility.

Walters said he expects the ice rink project will come up at the Town Board meeting on June 12.

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