County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz has scheduled a big day for Wednesday – his annual State of the County address and a major fundraiser immediately afterward.
Lynne M. Dixon, his Republican-endorsed challenger, says she will attend the county executive’s annual outline of plans at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery. But she was not invited to the Poloncarz money event at the Foundry, and that’s fine with her. She thinks the timing of the incumbent’s fundraising “doesn’t pass the smell test.”
“It just sends the wrong message,” said Dixon, a county legislator registered with the Independence Party who now launches one of her first campaign jabs at Poloncarz. “You hold a State of the County where you outline your vision, and then right after have a fundraiser where you tap into people who have contracts with the county or perhaps work for the county. It’s mixing the two.”
Dixon noted that former County Executive Chris Collins also slated fundraising events in conjunction with his State of the County speeches, but “I never found it appropriate.” She sees the address as a way to update residents on policies and initiatives, not to “bolster or support political aspirations.”
“The timing and proximity of the county executive’s fundraiser to his official State of the County address raises serious questions about the secret pay-to-play culture in Erie County,” she said. “It is obvious that the timing is designed to create political pressure on vendors of Erie County to financially support the county executive’s re-election campaign.”
Hundreds of guests have been invited to attend Poloncarz’s Wednesday speech, which has become an annual rite of government and allows the county executive to present goals and objectives for the coming year. But it assumes added significance in an election year as it can take on political overtones and become a focal point for the developing campaign.
Poloncarz earlier this week called Dixon’s claims “disappointing” while describing his fundraiser as part of the “celebration of the State of the County.”
“Many supporters come out, including many who were not at the State of the County,” he said, insisting the entire tenor of his administration “has been anything but pay-to-play.”
“If they’re the lowest responsible bidder, they get the contract,” the county executive said. “And Lynne should know that as a county legislator because she has voted for those contracts.”
Poloncarz said he even returned a donation several years ago from a major Buffalo law firm because it was merely being considered for a county contract.