November 13, 2007

Exclusive: Barker School District Fires Outside Counsel

Sources have told us that the Barker School District has fired the high priced attorneys they imported from Syracuse to fight the AES PILOT agreement. This could mean that the Barker School District knows they are going to lose the case and are tired of flushing hundreds of thousands of dollars down the toilet on lawyers fees.

Of course, the Barker School District's regular law is the infamous Andrews, Pusateri, Brandt, Shoemaker & Roberson gang...the same ones who have been bilking the Town of Somerset right along. Maybe the Barker folks thought if we're going to piss away tax dollars on an appeal, may as well do it with a local firm.

Plus, I imagine Ed Shoemaker could use a few extra taxpayer dollars in his pocket with the holidays coming up.

Seriously, with the county apparently rejecting the idea of appealing and this move by Barker, plus the election results which show no public outcry about the PILOT, maybe this saga is coming to a merciful end.

And while we're on Barker, has anyone else heard that former Barker Superintendent Steve LaRock, who whined poverty during the PILOT discussions, is on the Barker payroll as a $500 a day consultant? It's good work if you can get it.


Truth Detector said...

I just posted about Mount View that I believe that action is directly tied to the results of the election.

I believe the same can be said for this. It's clear to those getting rich off of AES lawsuits that the gravy train is about to come to an end.

They needed dramatic victories in last Tuesday's elections and instead they were crushed. You are seeing the policy implications of the election.

Larry Castellani said...

Was there no “public outcry” about AES because the people agreed with the Pilot “deal?” Or was there no “public outcry” because it confused and frustrated the voters into indifference, cynicism, despair and/or such apoplectic anger that they couldn’t get their wits about themselves in time to vote?

Frank DeGeorge said...


People never fall in love with these deals, but I do think they understood that AES would still be the county's largest taxpayer and a major employer after the PILOT.

If anything, I think many people saw how the company was getting robbed by a few bandits in Somerset named Shoemaker, Connelly and LaRock. That is why it never became a campaign issue.

Anonymous said...

Heard the same rumor about LaRock but not sure if it's true. Supervisor Myers has commented on this site before...maybe he can fill us in.

Anonymous said...

You guys love your conspiracies: Shoemaker, Rivera, Leffler, Christy, Confer, Bender, LaRock, Sweeney. While it may be a rogue's gallery, I'm not sure they are this evil that too many of you see.

Frank DeGeorge said...

Maybe not evil, but certainly self-interested. LaRock is the biggest hypocrite in the bunch. Someone should pass a law banning you from taking a taxpayer funded retirement and then collecting a check from the same entity from which you retired. This double dipping b.s. needs to stop.

The agitator said...

This is the first good decision the moronic school board has made in some time. Bender, Bitner, LaRock et al finally realize their games are over. Well, y'all had a nice ride while it lasted.

Anonymous said...


I must say that I'm not sure the AES Pilot was handled well by Judge Kloch. He's pretty well connected to the Republican Party (which, in my opinion, most posters are on this blog). I do believe that he should have allowed another judge to hear the arguments from all sides.. If someone with no local ties rendered the same decision as Kloch, there might not have been the need to appeal his decision.

Larry S said...

Larry Castellani said...
"Was there no “public outcry” about AES because the people agreed with the Pilot “deal?” Or was there no “public outcry” because it confused and frustrated the voters into indifference, cynicism, despair and/or such apoplectic anger that they couldn’t get their wits about themselves in time to vote?"

They couldn't get their wits about themselves in time to vote? That is the funniest thing I've ever read on this site. Thanks, Larry, for providing the comic relief to Niagara Times.

Insider said...

I have to deal with alot of local electeds in Niagara County, and it is hard to know where to start.

That AES deal is a boondoggle, but don't take my word for it... wait for the next two annual budgets of the county to be produced. There are plenty of good reasons to give taxbreaks to certain companies, but AES was far less deserving than any number of other companies.
There are a LOT of connections between AES and The Machine that runs this county. Are you folks aware of them?

Economic development would do alot better in our area if it focused its attentions and resources on small businesses rather than rewarding the larger companies that are politically well-connected.

I'll try to post more in the future, but the last observation I'll make is this. The people who are actually in the County Legislature, at least most of them, are dimwits. Again, don't take my word for it, but try to talk to any one of them at length and you'll see my point. It's amazing half of them ever got elected to begin with.

The sad fact is, The Machine would rather saddle us with Legislators who do what they are told rather than think independently and actually look out for taxpayers.

Don't kid yourself, it is fear that holds The Machine together... fear of political retribution, of law enforcement retribution, or outright loss of employment. Look at how many of the livelihoods of our Legislators The Machine controls.

Everywhere else it is 2007. Here in Niagara County, Tammany Hall rides again!

clemenza said...

I’ve said on this board several times that I think George Maziarz is the best elected official in WNY. Others see it differently, like Insider show is about some nefarious machine. I never understand this.

Since when is there anything wrong with recruiting candidates, raising money and getting out a message to voters? It’s call campaigning and it’s part of the democrat process. I think some people can’t stand a winner and I get that.

After all, who wants to see the Patriots win it all again. But sometimes, you just need to appreciate the success.

pirate's code said...

Insider said -- "The sad fact is, The Machine would rather saddle us with Legislators who do what they are told rather than think independently and actually look out for taxpayers."

By "Machine" he is, of course, referring to the current regime of GOP leadership. He does so with the implication the the Dems have no such machine/leadership which is, of course, bunk.

Certainly, the GOP machine has been generally more successful of late, but I think we all know that this stuff tends to run in cycles. Would Insider be quite so vitriolic if the tables were to turn in the next election cycle or two?

After all, who are some of the longest tenured representatives in the current leg? Renae, Dennis and Sean, I think. On the other hand, who has done the most to bring in relatively new faces, like Updegrove, Murgia, Cerreto and, most recently, McNulty?

At the end of the day, Insider, you need to remember that machines don't vote -- people do. If you despise the Machine so much, have your machine put up better candidates.

Larry Castellani said...

Short of being able to prove what “Insider” says about Niagara County politics but on the basis of the inexplicable disaster that the county clearly is and on the basis of the history of business community villainy, I believe it. Taxwise the burden of the county falls on an overburdened middle class (as does the burden of Bush’s war). But given that there is still no clarity, at least for me, regarding the AES deal and the conditions behind it (witness the disparate opinions in this blog), I would again submit, less satirically than in my previous posting, that most taxpayers are confused as to what is in their interest and consequently succumb to disillusionment and non-participation. Are there any county statistics with respect to voting participation in this county let alone a measure of the level and quality of understanding of the people who do vote. I suspect it is worse than dismal. … Lastly, why are so many people so afraid about using their real names on this blog. I’d love to know who “Insider” is and have a more authentic conversation. We can’t really determine what ideas motivate or what interests drive those who remain incognito. Hiding, as we do, reflects the hiding of the real concerns of the powerbrokers; and such “hiding” exonerates the “incognito crowd” from putting their butts on the line with respect to what they do think and do believe should be happening politically. I do doubt whether what is said by anonymous participants can amount ultimately to anything more than gossip.

Mr. Pink said...


Why do you absovle the electorate from their own responsibilty in the governance of their town, county, state and country?

It's called participatory democracy and too many people are too lazy to particpate.

When more people vote for American Idol contestants than presidents, that's not the result of machine politics that's a sign we are on the downslope.

Anonymous said...

So lawyer Ed Shoemaker can support political candidates who share his views on the AES Pilot and would like to see the AES litigation continue and would like to see Shoemaker continue to collect hundreds of thousands of dollars every year from the Somerset/Barker taxpayers and that is O.K.? No problem there.

Anonymous said...

Oh yeah, did I say "hundreds of thousands"?... I meant HUNDREDS of thousands.

Insider said...

Pirate's Code - I never meant to intend or imply the Democratic Party doesn't do, or at least attempt to do the same sorts of things. The fact is that there are plenty of Democrats who play ball, openly or behind the scenes, with The Machine. Look at the so-called Mazio-Crats in the Legislature. You'll see at the end of my post I referenced Tamany Hall, which was of course, a Democratic operation, so I don't know how you could come to your conclusion.

The Machine has little to do with the Republican Party. Sadly, here in Niagara County, the Republican Party is almost completely subservient to one person. This Machine is centered on three things: power, money, and patronage.

I can tell you this, things have never been as tightly controlled by any one party or any one man as they are now. Again, ask some of the people who have been involved in politics for decades around here, from both parties. There was a letter to the editor a few months ago from former Republican Town Supervisors, who have absolutely NO attachments to Democrats, who decried this machine.

I am by no means saying the Democratic Party is incapable of such things. Neither party can be held harmless in any examination of local or national history. However, recent history tends to hint that there is very little, if any Democratic machine in our county right now, and I think few would argue that it is the current Machine that runs things. One difference with this machine is that it wishes to insinuate itself into EVERYTHING, right down to the lowest offices at the local level.

Take a look at the 2 of the highest county-wide offices on the ballot last week... county judge and district attorney. I could have told you 2 years ago who the winners were going to be. There was absolutely no competition. It was locked up before one ballot was cast... two men were, in effect, appointed to their offices, and the voter was never given a choice. Both parties were complicit, and both should share the blame, but let's face it, those two candidates' strength came from the fact they were the candidates of The Machine.

If we want to change things in this county, we have to take a hard look at who really runs things. The Machine is in a lot of ways apolitical... it isn't tied to Republican ideals any more than it is to the that of the Democrats, really. I am not heaping blame on the Republican party... it is just happens to be the party that has almost completely been consumed by the Machine. There have been a good number of Democrats, elected and otherwise, who have played ball with this Machine and helped it get to this level of power.

And pretty soon, if the Machine gets its way, it will take over the County Democratic Party next year. Keep an eye on Democratic Committeeman seats next year, especially in Niagara Falls. The Machine will be strongly backing a candidate for County Democratic chairman.

If that happens, it will be the end to even the semblance of a two party system in Niagara County, and that should worry everyone, Republican and Democrat alike, a great deal.

Larry Castellani said...

Mr. Pink/Insider:
I understand what you mean about absolving the electorate of responsibility for participation. But it’s not just a matter of presuming the electorate can simply choose as if they exist in a realm of pure freedom and just choose not to participate. It’s more complicated than that. Nor is it a matter of there being some sort of machine/matrix that keeps us absolutely unaware and impotent. There are forces, presumably referred to by the “machine” metaphor, that do put people out of play and demoralize them. I wish Insider would just tell us who/what he believes or knows the machine is such that we could deal with it. But I guess it’s easier to talk in vague metaphors than in some way concretely disclosing what “participatory democracy” is really up against, namely, the real people and interests, attitudes and ideologies, that “govern” behind the scenes. Surely this is not merely paranoid or conspiratorial thinking. I just don’t think we can simply moralize about “responsibility” and “free choice” without asking why all too many people mostly choose not to participate. To be committed to participatory democracy, to me, means being concerned about the apathy and cynicism. After 18 years at the community college trying to get people interested in political philosophy, I have plenty of evidence as to the apathy, indifference, cynicism.

Insider said...

Sorry, Larry... I thought everyone knew what the Machine was here in Niagara County. I didn't mean to be cryptic.

The Machine is George Maziarz. Period. The County Republican Committee is completely controlled by him, through its chairman, Henry Wojtaszek. Henry and George give the marching orders to the County Legislature's 'majority caucus.' Hence, they want legislators who take orders well.

I'm not saying Maziarz isn't a good politician... he lives and breathes it. He can also be very effective at promoting his agenda and delivering for his constituents.

If you have a chance, ask any political reporter in Erie or Niagara County, off the record, who runs Niagara County, and to a person, they will tell you it's George Maziarz. If you become reasonably close to a Republican elected here in Niagara County, and they have some confidence in you, they will tell you the same.

If you speak to his former backers, they will tell you that when the late Senator John Daly moved on to become Pataki's DOT Commissioner, they finally decided to support George, believing they could control him. Within two years, they found out he had turned the tables on them, and he was running everything.

George is in the middle of a tough decision right now. He is deciding whether or not to run for Reynolds' congressional seat next year. If you see him move back to his old hometown of North Tonawanda (still in his senate seat but also in Reynolds' district, unlike Newfane, where he lives now, which is in Slaughter's district), you can just about bet he is going to run for Congress next year. He is also considering moving to Lockport, which would put him in the same position.

He desperately wants to be in Congress, and there were alot of negotiations between George's people and Reynolds' people late in 2005 to try to get him to step down. In short, Reynolds was way out of favor by then, having chaired the national Repub. congressional campaign committee during an election when Reps lost the majority, and he couldn't find a golden parachute on K Street. Reynolds kept his job, and George stayed in the State Senate.

Despite his desire to go to Congress someday, George is faced with a difficult choice. If he stays in the state senate, he has a good chance of being in the minority within a couple of years (that is if Spitzer gets smart and stops damaging his own party). Being in the minority in the state senate (or assembly for that matter), means you have very little influence over anything of consequence. I can imagine that would drive George crazy after a while, since he has such a strong desire to control everything. If the state senate ever does go to a Democratic majority, I can tell you one thing that will happen for sure - heavily Democratic Niagara Falls will be included in George's state senate district. I think George will probably still win there even if that is the case, but it would be more difficult for him. And, I think most reasonable observers would admit that it is unusual and unfortunate that our County's largest city is lumped in with Buffalo, which results in whoever represents the current district in the senate will naturally concentrate their efforts on vote rich Niagara Falls, rather than the relatively small city of NF.

Congress presents another problem. Due to congressional redistricting, New York State is likely to lose at least 2, if not 3, seats in Congress once the 2010 census is taken. Congressional redistricting will begin in 2011. Again, if the state senate becomes controlled by the Democrats, they will heavily influence how those congressional district lines are drawn. Even if the Republicans retain control of the state senate, whichever Republican friendly congressional seats are left are going to get geographically bigger, as all congressional districts will. As Congressional seats get bigger in a heavily Democratic state like NY, each congressional district will become more Democratic.

As a result, George's last and best chance to run for Congress is next year, otherwise 2010. If he runs next year, however, he will not be able to run for re-election to his State Senate seat. Word on the street is that if he does run for Congress next year, and loses, he will eventually become the Niagara County Manager, and there has been some talk of creating a County Executive position with him in mind. (some of you) Heard it here first.

pirate's code said...

Insider -- Is it Maziarz you don't trust, or is it the fact there is a "machine?" Because there was a machine before Maziarz, and there will be a machine after him. You said it yourself -- GOP insiders decided to back him when Daly moved on because they "believed they could control him."

The Dems have a machine, too, but that one isn't working very well right now and appears to be operated by a guy with just a learner's permit.

You've offered up a ton of speculation about out years that, at this point, are just that -- speculation, and heavily dependent on the decisions of others.

Let me ask you this, though -- do you really think Maziarz' electability would suffer greatly if NF were part of his district? After all, he's tried to do more for NF than any in the recent string of senators who actually represent the Falls -- Thompson, Coppola, Nanula, Masiello, etc.

I will not dispute that Maziarz is a powerful figure in county and regional politics. But I wonder if the results, or the means to get to the results, are nearly as evil as your postings clearly imply.

Maziarz gets things done at a pace far greater than most any other politician upstate. I'm guessing that is why he wins big when he runs. If he has aspirations for higher office, good for him. In the meantime, he seems to be doing well by his constituents.

Anonymous said...


Nice speculation. Too bad is just dime store ruminations that anybody who follows this stuff could come up with. Maziarz doesn't even need to move to run for Congress. He just needs to move into the district by the time he would take office.

Where your analysis goes wrong is that there is not a Tammany Hall machine running Niagara county, there is one well-run political party that has one of the best chairmen in the state (Henry Wojtasek,) the abilty to recruit solid candidates, the ability to raise money and a solid network of volunteers and grassroots activism.

If the other party matched this, we would have dynamic elections that energized people and saw a consistent stream of new faces running for office. So why is the local Democrat party to inept.

First, you can't overlook the Dennis and Renae factor. Dennis is already telling people that Jason Cafarella is not welcome in their caucus and is already recruiting candidates to run against him. That's great Dennis, alienate him already.

Then you have the constant back-biting. Remember Renae and her gal pal Shirley Hamilton boasting of how they cost Brad Erck his election? Rick Updegrove has that seat as long as he wants it.

How about Dennis making Harry Apolito take all those votes to help the Falls, like the Gazebo. They hung Harry out to dry and he got clocked.

And then you have Dan Rivera running all his races as if they were a referendum on AES and George Maziarz. Really? That's how you win? Linking candidates to George Maziarz? Here's a free piece of advice. If your opponents are using endorsements from a State Senator in their mail pieces, perhaps you should consider that he's pretty popular and liked.

Honestly, can anyone say that Rivera is better than Forster or Soda...okay he's better than Cindy Lenhard because he didn't break the law...then again, we do have that Liberty Mutual thing.

Here's some real speculation you can say you heard here first:

1) Dems will rally to John Simon's side in an effort to kill the terminal project because they don't want Senator Maziarz to realize that victory.

2) Dennis/Renae will...if they haven't already... approach the Democrat members of the Majority Caucus about lending their votes to an effort to get rid of BOE Commish Nancy Sharpe. If Rivera loses the battle to save Nancy, his chairmanship is finished.

3) The lid is blown off of Canal Fest/Tonawandas Chamber as people begin to realize these are front organizations for Soos-Rivera-Burgio-Pappas to play with tax dollars. This heat gets turned up even more when people realize Dave Burgio has been landbanking property in N.T.'s commercial district so Soos can send community development $$$ his way.

4) The comptroller comes into audit special districts in Niagara County. Indictments could be on the way.

Consider yourself in the know.

Anonymous said...

As long as we're talking machines, does it strike anyone else as, um, odd that the government committee of the NT chamber is largely made up of Soos, Burgio and Rivera?

If I'm a business and a member of that chamber, I'm a little worried that government affairs is not as non-partisan as it should be.

Frank DeGeorge said...

Does anyone know if that last anonymous post is accurate? I can't believe that that a mayor, former mayor (and just failed candidate) and a party chairman compromise a chamber's government affairs committee. Is that really true?

Anonymous said...

The chamber will list a fairly large number of people as members of that committee, but I know of at least two that stopped going because it was all about those three, with a touch of Bob Confer, Doug Taylor and former Chamber director Kurt Alverson thrown in.

As I understand it, "regular" business folk have little to no say in the development of government affairs policy.