Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz’s forthcoming book detailing his efforts to keep the Buffalo Bills in Western New York may not qualify as a political “tell-all.”
But a Freedom of Information Law request filed with its publisher by Republican Stefan I. Mychajliw Jr. provides enough “inside dirt” to fuel the county comptroller’s continued criticism of the Poloncarz book deal as well as the bitter political feud between them.
Mychajliw’s uncovering of Democrat Poloncarz’s 2017 book proposal (to be published by SUNY Press in September as “Beyond the Xs and Os – Keeping the Bills in Buffalo”) also hints at the county executive's frustration with Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo. Poloncarz even listed the governor’s negotiating style as one of the manuscript’s key “selling points.”
“It is a rare look into the way the administration of New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo negotiates and the multiple problems that created in reaching a successful conclusion,” Poloncarz wrote in his book proposal.
Now Mychajliw paints the entire effort as political, citing the book proposal as underscoring Poloncarz’s need for a successful stadium lease renewal as a matter of political survival.
“The Buffalo Bills are an institution in Western New York and failure to negotiate a successful lease would have likely resulted in the team moving (three teams have moved since) and the ending of the executive’s political career,” Poloncarz wrote in his proposal.
Mychajliw and Poloncarz have become incompatible neighbors in the Rath County Office Building during recent years, and the comptroller was quick to criticize the book deal when it was first revealed in March. On Wednesday he renewed his attack, claiming he is “deeply troubled” that Poloncarz was not more transparent about the book.
“The County Executive’s failure to disclose this marketing document for his book, and the explicit mention of how the Bills lease was used to prop up the County Executive’s political career, raises serious ethical concerns about the County Executive’s mixing of personal and public roles for his own financial gain,” Mychajliw said in a written statement.
Previously, he had questioned if Poloncarz was giving away proprietary information about the negotiations that resulted in a renewed lease for the county-owned stadium in Orchard Park. In addition, he had noted the book’s September release in the middle of the county executive's re-election campaign, promising to seek more information about the book deal under the Freedom of Information Law.
On Wednesday, however, top Poloncarz staffers dismissed the comptroller’s concerns. Chief of Staff Jennifer L. Hibit noted it was only natural that Poloncarz conclude successful negotiations for a lease renewal if he were to face the voters again.
“Mark could say it would mean the end of his career if he were not successful on lots of things,” she said. “He had to be successful.”
She also noted that county officials had unearthed thousands of pages of documents from the archives for an inspection by Mychajliw that never occurred, and that his criticism stems from an “agenda.”
Poloncarz's spokesman Peter Anderson added the book proposal rightfully outlines all the difficulties Poloncarz faced while negotiating with the state and the Bills.
“The book shows the process was not all smooth and lovey-dovey, but reached a successful conclusion,” he said.
The documents obtained by Mychajliw also show that Poloncarz approached the negotiations recognizing that the Bills could leave the area without an NFL franchise.
“Surrounding the negotiations were the feeding frenzy for news that occurred almost on a daily basis by local media,” Poloncarz wrote in his proposal, “as well as a cloud of concern hovering over the community due to then-current owner of the team, Ralph C. Wilson Jr., being a frail, 92-year-old man who said he would sell the team upon his death, with no guarantee the team would stay in Buffalo.”
Poloncarz also proposed to the publishers that his book will appeal not only to Bills fans but to legal scholars and students of public policy.
“To my knowledge there is no comparable book detailing the inner workings of the long and complicated process of negotiating a lease for a NFL team,” he wrote. “While the book is a narrative format, it is written from my view as county executive and an attorney who previously operated in the field of complex commercial transactions.”
Poloncarz also promised to detail the “complicated relationship” between Cuomo and Sen. Charles E. Schumer and their “interplay” during the negotiations.
The 192-page, hardcover book is priced at $29.95, with the documents listing the financial return for the county executive under various levels of sales.
In March, Poloncarz remarked that Mychajliw would qualify as someone who should read his work.
“If the comptroller really wants to know what went on with the negotiations,” he said, “he should read the book.”