County Democrats choose candidate hours after Judge renders Rogowski decision

Cheektowaga residents gather in Town Park to remember those lost on September 11th.  (Jim Herr/Cheektowaga Chronicle)

CHEEKTOWAGA – The political process to fill James Rogowski’s town council seat is moving ahead while Mr. Rogowski’s legal team is appealing a Supreme Court decision that said the democrat councilmember vacated his seat when he pleaded guilty to a charge of Attempted Criminal Contempt.

State Supreme Court Justice Mark Montour heard oral arguments from lawyers representing the Town of Cheektowaga and Mr. Rogowski Tuesday morning.  Judge Montour took three hours to return his decision according to James Ostrowski, Mr. Rogowski’s lawyer.

“I wish the media would scrutinize why this lawsuit was brought so fast and why they objected to a reasonable extension of time to answer.  I think it’s obvious that they wanted to get rid of this guy because he didn’t go along with the powers that be; they saw an opportunity, they looked at the calendar, and they figured ‘well we could get this on the ballot and deprive the voters of a primary election,'” said Mr. Ostrowski.

Mr. Ostrowski filed an appeal and a stay in the New York Court of Appeals Wednesday and is waiting for a decision.

“We think the trial court was wrong and we want a stay so nothing happens before the appeal is decided,” he said.  “Figure out what’s right as far as the court and then the politics can worry about itself.  I couldn’t care less who the democratic party wants to put in some council seat.  I want to make sure justice is done in this case.”

He tells Cheektowaga Chronicle that he felt the judge interrupted his argument many times and the town’s special counsel focused on Mr. Rogowski’s original alleged domestic violence charges when his wife Patricia accused him of violating an order of protection as the pair were driving in separate cars on the Thruway in the Town of West Seneca on February 23rd

Mr. Rogowski pleaded guilty earlier this month to a charge of Attempted Criminal Contempt after a plea was offered by the District Attorney’s Office following protracted legal proceedings dating back to February.  The plea was offered because while Mr. Rogowski drove near his wife, it was difficult to prove that he had any intent to violate the order of protection.

“I argued that in court, and in the judge’s decision he mentioned domestic violence which again, is not an element of the charge,” added Mr. Ostrowski.  “[Channels] 2 and 4 were there.  I would hope that they would post the whole video online because there seems to be a lot of interest in this; I think people would be interested to see the whole oral argument, and hear everything, and see everything, and see how it came down.  I wasn’t happy with it at all, quite frankly.”

The Erie County Democratic Committee met hours after Judge Montour rendered his decision Tuesday and picked Executive Director of the Seneca-Babcock Community Association and Maryvale School Board member Brian Pilarski to occupy the democratic line in an election to fill Mr. Rogowski’s vacancy this November. 

Erie County County Executive Mark Poloncarz wrote of Facebook, “Congratulations Brian on the endorsement from the Erie County Democratic Committee and I look forward to working together to elect you this fall and creating a better, stronger community for all afterward.”

Supervisor Diane Benczkowski wrote, “Brian Pilarski, you were the only candidate watching closely what was happening with an open seat becoming available on the Cheektowaga town board. Within minutes of the announcement that the seat was vacated, you sent the Cheektowaga Democratic Chairman a letter of interest and your resume! What a true testament to your passion and dedication to running for the seat! If elected I know you will bring to the board some great new ideas and will work hard for the residents of Cheektowaga! Congratulations!”

Calls to Republican party leaders have not been returned Wednesday night.  They have until tomorrow to choose their candidate.

An Erie County Board of Elections representative tells Cheektowaga Chronicle that the winner of the November election will fill out the remainder of Mr. Rogowski’s term.  He was elected this past November and has three years remaining on his term.  The town council has the option to fill the seat with someone until December 31st or they can just work one board member down.

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