Former State Sen. George D. Maziarz has reignited the simmering feud engulfing Niagara County Republicans for years, charging Wednesday that a newly discovered legal document points to “bid-rigging” for a favored firm connected to former GOP Chairman Henry F. Wojtaszek.
Maziarz, who ruled Niagara County politics for decades before declining to run for re-election in 2014 when federal and state investigators began probing his campaign finances, produced a new document on Wednesday outlining a 2016 FBI interview of Michael J. Norris of Lockport, another former Niagara County Republican chairman elected to the Assembly later that year.
Maziarz claims Norris told FBI agents about the process of hiring a new grant writing firm for Niagara County that the former senator says steered the contract to Four Points Communications, at the time owned by Melinda Boesken, who had served as Wojtaszek’s personal law secretary.
The former senator also claims a forensic audit he commissioned to review his assertions of alleged thefts from his campaign accounts shows checks totaling $50,000 from the Four Points contract were deposited in a joint bank account maintained by Wojtaszek and his wife, Caroline, the Niagara County district attorney.
Henry Wojtaszek, however, told the FBI in May 2016 that he earned his compensation from Four Points for services rendered, according to an FBI report. Wojtaszek said he reviewed grant applications for Four Points, contacted state officials about the availability of grants and attended meetings at Four Points' offices.
Wojtaszek, now president of Western Regional Off-Track Betting in Batavia, issued a statement Wednesday characterizing Maziarz's charges as "baseless."
"George Maziarz is using his former title to manipulate the media to do his political dirty work for him, since the legal system has rejected his false accusations," Wojtaszek charged in his statement. "This is an incoherent rambling by a disgraced former politician who is obsessed with trying to settle political scores with his enemies."
Nevertheless, Maziarz told The Buffalo News Wednesday, “Eric Schneiderman (former state attorney general) had evidence of bid-rigging and the money used to pay for it.”
He added that he now wants the Niagara County Legislature to pursue charges by law enforcement.
“They could ask for a special prosecutor to look into it,” he said. “It sure looks like bid-rigging to me.”
“I think, clearly, the County Legislature should look into this,” Maziarz said.
Maziarz says that, according to the FBI report, Norris told agents that Wojtaszek instructed then-Niagara County Manager Jeff Glatz to assemble a request for proposals seeking a new county grant writer.
“Wojtaszek told Glatz they needed to get Four Points Communications in there,” the FBI report of the Norris interview reads. “Glatz set up a committee for the RFP and they chose Four Points Communications as the new vendor for grant writing. Norris attended a breakfast meeting with Glatz where it was discussed that it was important to get the grant writing contract over to Four Points Communications.”
Maziarz now claims the process insisted upon by Wojtaszek resembles the contracts rigged by contractors on state projects in Buffalo and Syracuse sponsored by the state’s Buffalo Billion program that resulted in a slew of indictments and convictions.
“Make it look transparent, but the result is preordained,” Maziarz said.
This all follows Maziarz’s failed efforts in 2018 to seek prosecution of former aides he claimed stole from his campaign account, and after his own indictment by Schneiderman on five felonies connected to Republican campaigns in Niagara County. He eventually pleaded guilty in 2018 to a campaign finance misdemeanor and paid a $1,000 fine, all the while insisting Schneiderman’s efforts were politically motivated at a time when Maziarz and his fellow Republicans controlled the State Senate. Schneiderman, a Democrat, had previously served in the State Senate.
Eventually, Maziarz failed to convince a special prosecutor that his claims of theft from his campaign account had occurred. Erie County District Attorney John J. Flynn, appointed to review Maziarz’s claims that more than $350,000 remained missing, determined last October that he could not prosecute any crime connected with the missing funds.
“After reviewing all the materials, there is definitely smoke, and when there is smoke there is usually fire,” Flynn said at the time. “However, in this case, I do not have enough evidence to prove the fire in court.”
Now, Maziarz is concentrating on separate transactions uncovered during – but not related to – the probe of his campaign funds. He says the FBI’s interview of Norris is reflected in documents he has “had for some time.”
“I was waiting for agencies to do something about it,” he said.
Norris' attorney Joel L. Daniels said late Wednesday there is no basis for Maziarz's claims.
"The U.S. Attorney's Office, the district attorney, and the Attorney General's Office looked at all these facts and declined to pursue the investigation any further," Daniels said. "Mike Norris was never a target of any state or federal investigation. He was a subpoenaed witness who cooperated fully and truthfully and as an assemblyman he continues to deal with issues important to the State of New York."
The News reported extensively in the spring of 2018 on Maziarz’s charge that money from his campaign accounts remained unaccounted for, as well as the ensuing feuds among Niagara County Republican politicians following decades of cooperation and friendship. Maziarz at the time showed The News dozens of FBI documents lawyers obtained as part of his defense against the state’s criminal charges.
Schneiderman’s probe ensnared much of Niagara County’s Republican leadership following related investigations by former Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara and the state’s Moreland Commission to Investigate Public Corruption. The attorney general charged Sen. Robert G. Ortt (Maziarz’s successor in Albany) with campaign finance violations, but an Albany County judge later threw out the case.
Henry Wojtaszek also pleaded guilty in the same probe to a misdemeanor campaign finance charge and paid a $1,000 fine.
News Staff Reporter Dale Anderson contributed to this report.