As the claims and counterclaims about wasteful spending ratchet up between Republicans and Democrats in Erie County government, so, too, have the attempts at “gotcha politics.”
It’s the start of a new political season, and even those who aren’t running for office this year are speaking up.
Last week, County Comptroller Stefan I. Mychajliw, a Republican, released a five-year review of spending by the Legislature while it was still under Democratic control.
The review, requested by the Legislature’s current GOP-aligned majority, purports to show Democrats as profligate at taxpayer expense, even though the claims of waste documented in the report accounted for 0.45 percent of what the Legislature actually spent over five years.
Now, Legislature Minority Leader Betty Jean Grant, D-Buffalo, is accusing Mychajliw of having withheld from his report knowledge of purported waste by Mychajliw’s recently hired chief of staff, Bryan Fiume, at the time Fiume was chief of staff for the then-GOP-aligned minority caucus of the Legislature.
It turns out that Fiume, who left his job as a Legislature staffer in late December to become Mychajliw’s associate deputy comptroller, had possession of a county-issued smartphone for at least four of the five years that were covered in Mychajliw’s review.
Grant wants to know why that information was not documented in the comptroller’s review, particularly in light of the Legislature’s long-standing policy against either staffers or lawmakers possessing county-issued wireless devices.
According to Mychajliw, the answer is simple: County-issued wireless devices are not documented as a Legislature expense. The phone at issue would have been paid for through interdepartmental billing, as are other items and services, including letterhead, computers and county vehicles, the comptroller said.
“It’s obvious Legislator Grant is not familiar with county purchasing,” Mychajliw said.
Grant learned of Fiume’s possession of a county-issued smartphone – which Fiume apparently relinquished in December – as a result of a different review by the County Comptroller’s Office that was released in April.
That report looked at the control and use of wireless devices by the county’s Department of Information and Support Services from Jan. 1, 2012, through June 30, 2013.
“When we conducted our audit of DISS, I made sure that the very first person mentioned as having a mobile device is the former minority chief of staff,” Mychajliw said, referring to Fiume.
Mychajliw still offered no explanation of how and when Fiume acquired the device or why Fiume possessed it in the first place.
Meanwhile, Grant has sent a Freedom of Information Law request to the county’s Department of Information and Support Services inquiring about how Fiume – who also had worked in the office of then-County Executive Chris Collins – got access to a county-issued smartphone and seeking the phone records connected with the wireless device and how much it cost the county.