Christopher Johnston has left his post as president of the World Trade Center Buffalo Niagara after a review of the groups’ finances led to his suspension.
Johnston said Friday he has done nothing improper.
Johnston’s departure from the World Trade Center last month came after an employee at the trade group raised questions about some of its finances. Johnston sought the dismissal of the employee, but the group’s board of directors later opted to suspend Johnston with pay as it reviewed the allegations, according to sources. Johnston, who had led the world trade center since 2007, submitted his resignation on April 6.
“I deny all allegations made in this story,” Johnston said in an email. “There are no financial improprieties. I consider this slanderous accusation false and will fight it going forward. I resigned my employment to move on to another challenge. I continue to assist the organization moving forward.”
World Trade Center officials declined to discuss the circumstances surrounding the departure of Johnston, who also serves as chairman of the Erie County Industrial Development Agency. A statement from the trade group also said he resigned “to move on to another challenge.”
County Executive Mark Poloncarz, who was instrumental in naming Johnston to the IDA board in March 2012 and tapping him as the economic development group’s chairman in May 2013, said he still supports Johnston in his role at the ECIDA.
“We have complete confidence in his ability to continue his service as ECIDA chair,” Poloncarz said in a statement. “Mr. Johnston’s continuing advocacy for private-sector interests, particularly in manufacturing and foreign trade areas, make him a highly-valued member of the ECIDA board.”
Poloncarz also said Johnston had been planning to eventually leave his post at the world trade center. “Mr. Johnston had advised us of his intent to leave the WTC several months ago to pursue opportunities in the private sector,” Poloncarz said.
Steven Weathers, who joined the Erie County IDA as president and chief executive officer in December, also issued a statement: “In my short tenure as CEO of the ECIDA, Chris has done an excellent job chairing our meetings, setting the agenda and volunteering his time on various committees to help execute our business mission.”