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Editorial: Special prosecutor needed to probe Maziarz's accusations

We have no way of knowing whether the bid-rigging allegations made by former State Sen. George D. Maziarz against a political rival are mere sour grapes or something more serious. It happens that the rival is the husband of the county district attorney, Caroline A. Wojtaszek, who says she wants a special prosecutor to investigate.

The DA is making the right call.

Maziarz accuses Henry F. Wojtaszek, a former Republican chairman of the county, of leaning on county officials in 2014 to deliver a grant-writing contract to Four Points Communications, headed by Henry Wojtaszek’s one-time secretary.

The former chairman, a one-time political protégé of Maziarz, dismisses the charge as “baseless.”

What a tangled web they weave in Niagara County politics. Henry Wojtaszek was a protégé of Maziarz during their 25-year friendship. Things fell apart after a grand jury convened by then State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman indicted Maziarz in March 2017 on five felonies tied to Republican campaigns in Niagara County. Maziarz pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor and paid a $1,000 fine.

Wojtaszek also pleaded guilty in the same probe to a misdemeanor campaign finance charge and paid a $1,000 fine.

Maziarz recently called a news conference to state that FBI interview documents from the criminal case brought against him revealed that Wojtaszek steered the contract to Four Points and had received some of its proceeds.

Maziarz previously accused former aides of stealing more than $350,000 in political contributions to his campaign, but failed to convince a special prosecutor. Erie County District Attorney John J. Flynn, appointed to review Maziarz’s claims, determined in October 2018 that he could not prosecute any crime connected with 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.”

Again, we don’t know the validity of Maziarz’s charges that Henry Wojtaszek steered work to a communications firm, but prosecutors should take an interest when possible misuse of public funds is involved.

Good for Caroline Wojtaszek for asking Administrative Judge Paula L. Feroleto of State Supreme Court’s Eighth Judicial District to weigh in. Clearly, she couldn’t investigate it, herself.

Caroline Wojtaszek said she was confident that the accusations had been “fully reviewed” by federal and state authorities.

“But to provide for public peace of mind and another layer of full transparency I am asking that a special district attorney conduct his or her own review of the matter so that it can be dealt with once and for all through the legal system,” she said.

A special prosecutor is the best way to get to the bottom of Mariarz’s accusations, or to put them to rest.

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