CHEEKTOWAGA, N.Y. – A last-minute negative political mailer targeting Councilmember Alice Magierski has muddied the waters of what has been – up until this weekend – a clean Democratic primary campaign.
The mailer accuses Ms. Magierski of “double dipping” on her New York State pension by drawing a town salary, taking advantage of a lifetime health insurance benefit from the town, and voted to fire a “political enemy” who was a bingo inspector that served in World War II.
Cheektowaga Chronicle spoke to Ms. Magierski Monday, and she is firing back at the claims.
“I’m not an inactive councilmember, I’m a contributing councilmember. I’m out in the public, I’m always looking for ways to improve our services responsive to the residents,” said Ms. Magierski.
Data obtained from SeeThroughNY.net shows that Ms. Magierski will draw a pension of $52,261 this year. Her town council salary is $20,680. The mailer accuses Ms. Magierski of “double dipping,” the process of drawing a government salary while also taking a government pension.
“Whether I’m receiving a salary for council or somebody else is, it’s still a salary that’s paid to a councilmember. I’m not costing the taxpayers money for being a councilmember. It’s a position that is being contributed to, I earn what I’m getting in that position,” said Ms. Magierski.
Double dipping is legal in New York State for employees earning up to $30,000. If the employee makes more than $30,000 without a waiver from the state, their pension is suspended.
Rochester’s Democrat and Chronicle reported in June 2017 that twelve members of the state Assembly and five state senators collected a salary and pension in 2016.
The mailer also takes aim at Ms. Magierski’s lifetime health insurance benefit.
Brian Krause, Director of Administration & Finance for the Town of Cheektowaga says employees hired before 2012, are eligible for lifetime health coverage (at a cost of 5% or 10% of the premiums depending on when they were hired) if they retire into the NYS retirement system at the time of discontinuance of service and they have completed 10 consecutive years of service with the Town. Employees hired after 2012 have the same option but must pay 100% of the premiums.
“I do contribute a percentage of the cost to the town, but it’s a benefit that is given. Almost all the employees have lifetime benefits,” said Ms. Magierski.
As for the accusation that she fired town bingo inspector Anthony Prep, a World War II veteran because he was a political enemy she says,” My husband was a Vietnam combat veteran. I have complete and total respect for veterans. I lived a year not knowing if my husband was going to return home. To exploit (Anthony Prep’s) position and to exploit him as a political weapon, I feel is very degrading to those veterans. It’s not fair to be throwing that out there.”
Ms. Magierski says the bingo inspector position is a yearly political appointment and not a full-time job. She says Mr. Prep knew that he had to be reappointed every year just as the two other inspectors.
“There was no vengeance, there was no retaliation. I have nothing against Mr. Prep, we speak, and in fact, at the last endorsement meeting, he told me he voted for me,” added Ms. Magierski.
Reached by phone on Monday, Mr. Prep confirms to Cheektowaga Chronicle her statement.
“I did say that, but I’m not going to vote for her now,” said Mr. Prep. He did not elaborate on why he changed his mind.
The source of the mailer does not contain a disclaimer notice informing voters who or what political action committee financed the communication. The Erie County Board of Elections told Cheektowaga Chronicle that under New York State Elections Law, a disclaimer notice is not needed. It is only required for federal elections.
“I’m hoping it’s not my other colleagues in government. I don’t know. I do know that Brian Nowak employed a man named Dan Jones and he had filed objections to my petitions that I submitted to the Democratic party. I filed 1,088 signatures. I only needed 500 and he tried to disqualify over 600 making me go under the 500 limit,” said Ms. Magierski.
The Chairman of the Cheektowaga Democratic Committee Matt Janiszewski, fellow candidates Tim Meyers and James Rogowski all denied sending the mailer.
Mr. Meyers said, “I did the three mailers of my own. I have the receipts for my mailers that I paid for, and I don’t have any more money left. I told everybody I would never do that to anybody, even somebody I hold disdain for, which is not her. If I were going to spend that kind of money, I would spend that money on myself before I spent it on someone else.”
Mr. Rogowski echoes that statement, ” In the twelve years that I’ve been in public office, not once have I ever sent a negative piece out on any of my opponents, ever. I speak about Jim Rogowski and only about Jim Rogowski in my mailers.”
The Cheektowaga Chronicle reached out to the Erie County Democratic Committee at 3 pm and was told that Chairman Jeremy Zellner would return our call. We published this article at 5:45 pm Monday and our call was not returned.
We also reached out to Mr. Nowak at 3 pm and again at 5 pm receiving his voicemail both times. He later texted us at 7:36 saying, “My campaign did not send the mailer. I’m making my case to the voters of Cheektowaga on a daily basis, based on the issues that they are concerned about.”
The mailer was initially brought to my attention by Ms. Magierski asking if I supplied the photograph of her in council chambers. The picture was taken by me during the April 25th town board meeting and was published to this website as a file photo of Ms. Magierski. Journalistically and ethically, I would not license or permit a news photograph to be used in a negative context. Permission was not granted for the copyrighted work and I’m exploring all legal avenues with my attorney.
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