A convicted sex offender lives at a Hamburg hotel the Erie County Department of Social Services uses to shelter homeless families, according to Erie County Comptroller Stefan I. Mychajliw.
The manager of the hotel Friday denied that the business ever housed the sex offender identified by Mychajliw.
A spokesman for County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz confirmed in an email that no Department of Social Services clients were currently being housed at the hotel identified by Mychajliw.
The comptroller said the discovery came during a routine audit on hotel occupancy taxes, which surveyed properties used by the county to house families as part of the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families program. The comptroller's office is still conducting the audit, but Mychajliw said he found the finding alarming enough to notify Social Services Commissioner Marie Cannon. A letter was hand-delivered to her office Friday.
"We did not want to wait until the conclusion of our report and audit work," Mychajliw said. "I felt so strongly that we could be putting children and families at risk that Social Services needed to be aware of this issue immediately."
Bhavin Patel, manager of the Stadium View Inn on Southwestern Boulevard, said the man identified by Mychajliw as a sex offender never lived at the hotel.
"This is a false statement," Patel said of the claim.
According to the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services database of registered sex offenders Friday, records showed the individual, Kenneth Weir, resides at 4414 Southwestern Boulevard in Hamburg, which is the address of the Stadium View Inn.
"This individual, I don't know who this guy is, and he's not here," Patel added.
The Buffalo News reached out to the social services commissioner Friday. Her office referred questions to Poloncarz's public information officer.
Mychajliw said the initial aim of his audit was to ensure that hotels are current with the hotel occupancy tax they pay to the county and to identify hotels the county pays to provide lodging services. In February, the audit division contacted Cannon for a list of hotels in the county used to house homeless families receiving county aid. A couple of weeks later, the comptroller's office received a list of nine such shelters that included four hotels or motels that, over the past two years, have accepted referrals from the social services department for shelter placements, Mychajliw said.
While reviewing the list of hotels, a deputy comptroller discovered there had been a fight significant enough at one to have garnered media attention.
"That prompted more questions within our audit division of: Is there more out there, something more serious than a fight?" Mychajliw said.
Further investigation revealed the address of a hotel that shelters homeless families, Stadium View Inn, matched the primary residence of a Level 2 sex offender, 60-year-old Weir, who Mychajliw said was identified in the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services database. A Level 2 offender is considered to be a moderate risk of a repeat offense.
In his letter to Cannon, Mychajliw informed the commissioner that Weir was convicted of felony sex offenses against two girls, 10 and 12 years old, in 2003.
"I assume there is — and shame on Erie County if there isn't — a formal policy that we not place families at homes of sex offenders. If there isn't, there ought to be one immediately," Mychajliw said.
"I'm more than willing to work collaboratively with the Department of Social Services to look deeper into this to determine whether or not there are more sex offenders — and it's possible — living at hotels where they are placing children and families," he added.
“Our source was a government database for that purpose,” said Bryan Fiume, associate deputy comptroller, Friday. “If that database is not true and that is false information put out by another government agency, we have another problem, because how many errors exist in that database?”
As for whether or not the social services department has any clients currently residing at Stadium View Inn, Fiume said the comptroller's office has not yet completed its audit, which will determine whether or not the county had clients there a week ago or a month ago.
“No one might be there this very second, but they definitely use the facility. It is our understanding — and the conclusion of our actual report will work this out — it’s our understanding that it’s used for temporary and emergency situations for immediate placement and not long term” Fiume said.