March 18, 2009

Broderick Allegations Demand Further Investigation

Niagara County Treasurer Dave Broderick has been an excellent public servant for longer than I can remember. However, recent allegations that Broderick abused his authority as a public administrator of estates raises some serious questions. The allegations come from Amherst lawyer Teresa Snyder, who has accused Broderick of overstepping his bounds as public administrator by allowing his wife, Jane Broderick, to serve as the realtor of a property formerly owned by Snyder’s mother.

Two prominent county judges, Sara Sheldon Sperrazza and Matthew Murphy, this week made an audit request of Broderick, and all 19 county legislators have signed on to the request. Kudos to the judges and the Leg for taking action on this.

We're not saying Broderick did anything wrong as it relates to the handling of the estate work. What sticks in our craw is the very real likelihood that Broderick conducted this "private" business on county time, using county resources and county employees. Best case scenario, this is offensive. Worst case scenario, it's downright illegal.

County Attorney Claude Joerg has stated that the Leg has no standing to form a board of inquiry, as requested by the minority caucus, in the Broderick matter. He said the statute covering the formation of inquiry boards covers only situations involving the mishandling of public money by county officials. In this case, he again argued that Broderick’s duties as public administrator, while assigned to him by state law, do not involve the handling of any public dollars and are, in essence, a side job for the treasurer.

Fine, we'll go along with that determination; we don't like it, but we'll accept it. But it does not address whether or not county resources were utilized for, as the county attorney has labeled it, Broderick's "side job".

We find the prospect of using county resources more offensive than allegedly handing a real estate deal to his wife. Why? Because that means county tax dollars, MY tax dollars, were used for Broderick's side job....allegedly. That's unacceptable.

The Leg needs to follow this investigation to fruition. If the allegations are found to be true, someone needs to fired or removed from office. Any other outcome will be construed as condoning of this type of behavior.


Mr. Pink said...

Seems to be a gray area to me, but I am uncomfortable that he gets paid for this sidework as executor of estates and yet uses county resources to perform the work.

If it is indeed an actual function of his job, it seems that the county coffers and not Broderick personally should be the reciever of the fee.

Niagara Prognosticator said...

The fact that Mr. B uses County Personnel and resources in his role as Public Administrator has been well and widely known within County Government, from top to bottom, for many years. The issue was raised during Mr. B.'s last reelection effort. It found no traction as a campaign issue nor did it raise any red flags in the county hierarchy. Once the audit is complete, a likely outcome will be that while Mr. B.'s use of county resources is not prohibited, the legislature may come into criticism for not requiring reimbursement for the use of county resources as is permitted by the statute. As I recall, the law says the county "may" require reimbursement for the use of county offices and personnel.

The County Attorney is wrong that this is not a subject for a board of inquiry (certainly it's more appropriate here than it was in the Joyce matter). However, this begs the question of whether or not such a BOI is wise. Past BOI's have proved more than unproductive with politically tainted proceedings and dubious outcomes.

The comptroller's audit will also be less than satisfying both for those out for blood and those who see nothing wrong with the way the Public Administrator has conducted his business. His use of public resources will certainly be criticized, but not illegal.

An the other hand, Mr. B's more serious problem is the alleged self-dealing of funneling estate business to his wife. An administrator of any estate, public or otherwise, has an absolute fiduciary duty to avoid self-dealing. If found to have actually breached this duty, it is at least a serious ethical violation (attorneys have been disbarred for less) and perhaps a fraud, both as to the estates and to the court. Something a willing prosecutor could tie around M. B's neck and ride him either out of office or to the hoosegow.

BUT, *willing* prosecutors in Niagara County in matters against favored politicos is a rare bird indeed. E.G. a sitting legislature repeatedly filing for and receiving unemployment compensation while collecting a legislature's paycheck. Illegal in other places, here just an "honest" mistake.