Attorney general investigated questionable bidding at Erie County DPW

Attorney general investigated questionable bidding at Erie County DPW

Attorney general investigated questionable bidding at Erie County DPW
October 13, 2015

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office has confirmed that it investigated alleged bidding irregularities at the Erie County Department of Public Works, but Schneiderman's office also said that its probe of the county agency is now closed. 

Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz on Tuesday responded to a report of an ongoing probe, saying that the only investigation into the county Department of Public Works he was aware of stems from actions during 2010 and 2011, which predate his administration.

Poloncarz, reached by phone, said his office began its investigation into bid processing shortly after he took office in 2012 and turned over the results of the probe to Schneiderman’s office in January 2013.

Last week Peter Anderson, a Poloncarz spokesman, said he has “no knowledge” of an ongoing investigation. He did not immediately return a follow up call Tuesday morning.

On Tuesday afternoon after this story was published, the attorney general's office said it had investigated the matter but had closed the case.

“In January 2013, County Executive Mark Poloncarz requested that our office look into alleged past issues related to competitive bidding for projects at the Erie County Department of Public Works," the Schneiderman spokesman said in an email. "After a thorough review, and with the full support and cooperation of County Executive Poloncarz, our office closed the case with no further action.”

“This administration runs a clean administration,” Poloncarz said. “We became aware of certain potential improper actions leveled during the final years of the Chris Collins administration. We performed an internal investigation and we turned that information over to the state attorney general’s office for them to perform a more definitive investigation to determine whether inappropriate actions were taken in the Department of Public Works in 2010 and 2011.”

Earlier, multiple sources with knowledge of the situation, who would only speak on the condition of anonymity, said that an investigation was ongoing at the department. The sources said the investigation was into potential bid rigging. Poloncarz said that his office's investigation raised questions about invoicing of a bid, not bid rigging. 

The sources also said the investigation had started as far back as March 2014. Schneiderman's office did not specify when the case was closed.

While one source did not know the target of the investigation, the other said that it is a recently terminated county employee. The source added that Poloncarz was not in any way involved in the misdeeds, nor were any members of his administration.

Editor's note: This story has been updated with comments from Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz and from the office of Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. The post has also been updated to reflect that sources told City & State that the attorney general investigation had started as far back as March 2014, not March 2015. 

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Justin Sondel
is a freelance reporter in Buffalo.