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October 6, 2009 - 9:49pm

Bialkowski dodges questions on leaked letter

posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, city council, Bob Bialkowski.

Since Councilman Bob Bialkowski has not returned phone calls nor answered our email, I've been waiting for a chance to talk to him in public.

Tonight, he was outside the Batavia High School auditorium waiting for the meeting on the proposed North Street Extension athletic fields.

I asked him first if he knew who leaked the letter? "What letter?" He said.

I clarified and he said, "Our attorney instructed us not to discuss it." I pointed out that the instruction is not to discuss what happened in closed session, not after. I asked three times, "What happened outside of closed session?" and Bob tried moving away from me saying, "Excuse me,"  "Excuse me."

I asked him if he would release Daily News reporter Joanne Beck from any promise of confidentiality, and Bialkowski said, "I'm not going to discuss it."

Audio: "Interview" with Bob Bialkowski (mp3).

Previously:

C D
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I'll be the first to say it. This does not look good for Mr. Bialkowski.
Lorie Cook
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Good job, Howard. This whole situation has gone completely sad. I hope that the obviously guilty party finds his conscience soon before any more damage is done.
tim raines
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And the point of your entry IS??????????
Bea McManis
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Is this considered a 'shovel ready job'. You just keep digging a deeper hole?
Howard B. Owens
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Tim, and the point of your question is????
Amy Davis
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There are others who could be suspect. It will all come out in the "wash", so to speak. They've been advised "not to speak" on the subject. Let's respect that. For now. Everything gets out sooner or later.
Howard B. Owens
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Amy, nobody has advised them not to speak on the subject. I spoke to a council member after I posted this who confirmed that there has been no instruction from George Van Nest to the council not to speak about the leak. The leak is something that happened outside of closed session. It's in no way privileged information. There is nothing preventing Bob, Bill or Sam (the only three issuing no comments on the topic) from speaking openly about the topic. There's nothing to respect in that regard.
John Roach
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Well, at least you found Bob. The fact that he lied about being told not to talk and saying, "what letter", does not look good. Too bad Mr. Bialkowski would not release the Daily News and put an end to this.
tim raines
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Howard Owens, excuse me, excuse me, maybe I should have made this point in MY response....OMG, the man didn't answer your questions, OMG, the man used his OWN printer to copy a letter. Did you follow him after your questions to see if he washed his hands in the bathroom, or parked between the lines in the parking lot, or exceeded the speed limit on State St. by 2 mph....Now,"reporting" on that would have been REAL "journalism".
Bea McManis
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Tim, While I respect your admiration for Bob and your support for him, you can't really call Howard on the carpet for asking the same questions we all have asked since the beginning of this bizarre episode. His response, "what letter?", in an attempt to make him look oblivious to what is going on, just added fuel to the fire. He claims he was instructed not to discuss a letter that he denies knowing anything about ("what letter?"). Don't you find that somewhat strange? I can't help but wonder what the next smoke screen will emerge to take attention off Bob and his non-letter episode. We had a week of distraction, from Councilman Cox, regarding the playing fields and the school board. What can they come up with next to take attention off the "what letter?"?
tim raines
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I don't "admire" or "support" Bob... His "what letter" is a great response from him showing how petty politics in the Batavia City Council "distract" from the real issues that the council should deal with, and how petty journalism supports it. What I find strange is that Batavia homeowners pay 8 times more for property and school taxes than I pay. In the last 30 yrs that's $225,000 more than I have paid. When I turn 63, I won't be paying school taxes...ever. Why doesn't a "journalist" do a report on that? And people wonder why Batavias population decreases yr after yr...... What someone doesn't know....doesn't hurt him. Just take out your checkbook in the meantime.
C D
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Tim, I believe you're getting Howard's reporting mixed up with the Daily. Howard's reporting isn't petty. I'm sure you made an accidental typo. Perhaps you should apologize.
John Roach
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Tim, The point of the post is that somebody on City Council tried to damage Jason’s reputation without letting Jason even have a chance to hear the complaint against him. You have seen right here some people now think a crime was committed and being covered up by others on council. And one council person is reported to have said Bob was willing to keep this all secret if the others voted no to Jason’s pay raise. That needs to be cleared up, right? Asking Bob if he is the one who tried to discredit Jason, or offered to trade the letter for a vote is fair and is what should be done. That is journalism. Bob lying about being told not to talk just makes him look guilty; sort of what the leaker wanted to do to Jason.
tim raines
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No accidental typo here Chris. Just take out your checkbook and keep PAYING FAT TAXES while Batavia citizens are concerned about a "letter" and journalists report on it. I don't live in Batavia, and happily wrote a $1100 check for property/schools taxes for the yr. If I was over 62, it would of been $300. What did you pay in Batavia for a 2200 sq ft house? Again, someone, anyone, please check the priority list.
Charlie Mallow
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Tim, I realize you are really interested in your school taxes. We all have different interests. Howard is going to direct his attention based on hit counts, that's just business. So far it looks like this issue us trumping this school issue. The fact is if anything was manufactured it was this field issue. Who exactly is going to pay for the field? Council already rejected it and so have the voters. The school budget is approved by a public vote. So who does this talk about the fields benefit? Who exactly are we fighting? Ourselves...
Timothy Paine
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Charlie, since there has been no instruction from the City attorney "not" to discuss this (sorry about the double negative). Will this subject be on the next Council agenda? Since you will only be discussing the leak and not what was said in executive session, can we expect some direct questions at the next Council meeting? Since this has a direct effect on the Council being able to do its job, that inturn has a direct effect on us taxpayers. I think it warrants some answers to the taxpayers from the whole Council and not a few members. Take it directly to the three that won't answer during the next Council meeting. They can walk away from a reporter or even a citizen, but they can't dodge it during a meeting. I say it is a distraction and it should be settled. Take it head on, settle it, get past it and get on with it.
tim raines
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Unfortunately, from my brief time on The Batavian, I've realized that there's a big pink elephant in the middle of Batavias Main Street, and not many people notice it's there, they just drive around it.
Richard Gahagan
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Pathetic all the way around and back again, I just took a leak there now its over, back to work.
Howard B. Owens
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Tim, your argument is what logicians would call a "false dichotomy." The fact that I reported on A instead of B does not invalidate the legitimacy of A. It's a false choice. And the problem with B, as you define it in this case, "school taxes," is not news. We all know school taxes are too high. For a number of reasons, Tim, not that this should have to be explained, this is a fairly significant issue: -- The leaker jeopardized an investigation into the conduct of the city's highest administrative official's conduct. Regardless of how true or trivial, or not, the complaint is, the person who made the complaint has a right to have it fully investigated. And if it is true, the citizens have a right to expect full accountability and proper action taken. -- While as a journalist, I fully support leaks, I have yet to see how this one serves any public purpose. If it had come at the end of the investigation and the leaker thought the Council had not properly dealt with the matter, or was trying to sweep it under the rug, my attitude might be different. But this came before any facts were actually confirmed/known and a conclusion reached about what those facts mean. The lack of apparent public-purpose motive makes it look like a personal vendetta issue. Which isn't proper conduct for an elected official. So I think the leaker should step forward and try to explain what public purpose was served by this leak. -- While pursuing what appears to be a purely private agenda, the leaker exposed the city to the potential of a significant lawsuit. -- For the time being, at least, the city is somewhat hampered from conducting legitimate business because the council won't meet in closed session until this is resolved in some manner (which may be as simple as writing up some rules most council members are comfortable with). -- I'm a big believer in transparency. Here we have three people on the council refusing to be transparent, about a matter for which there is no legitimate reason (such as the information being legally confidential, issuing no comments. And the third member of that group, Bialkowski, is not even returning phone calls or answering email. That leaves a reporter with no alternative but to bring a tape recorder and ask pointed and direct questions, repeatedly, if necessary. And the results of that interview, regardless of what they are, under these circumstances should be public. Charlie, this topic does very little for site traffic. Only the people really into government business care. Most people get turned off by these kind of shenanigans by their elected officials and would rather not read about it. I've kept on this for the reasons outlined above.
Tony Ferrando
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Why are you so hung up on your property tax and school tax exactly, Tim? New York State public schools rank #16 overall in the nation... Georgia's rank #41. Success on this front comes at a cost. I'm glad you're so proud of your less-than-average results for paying less-than-average amounts of taxes... me? I'm proud that I have a well-educated state. Most importantly, what does your property and school tax have to do with a guy leaking information from a private closed executive session of government?
John Roach
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Tony, Off the subject of the "leaker" question. Any idea where we would stand if we did not have the bigger discticts like NYC, Buffalo, Rochester, etc?
Tony Ferrando
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Not sure how to answer you correctly really, I'll try. Do you mean Batavia held up solo against them district for district? Likely just above-average within the pack if you break out to the school level, while on a district level just below average - but a misleading below average as it's already been blown out of proportion in the area. With the great schools of Buffalo, NYC, Rochester (City Honors, Pittsford-Mendon, Pittsford-Sutherland, Nardin Academy, etc etc etc) come the bad schools too. Batavia doesn't have the money to ever be at the level of those great schools which are in the national top 100, but it does have the money to be respectable and much, much better than those cities bad schools. And I'd expect to see it rise considerably over the next few years now that they've expanded their AP offerings, to be as good as surrounding schools that are better and offer many AP courses.
tim raines
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Mr. Ferrando, I'm glad you're proud, I'll send you a "I Love NY Taxes" T shirt. In the meantime, keep driving around that big pink elephant in the middle of Main Street that you don't seem to notice. Don't forget.... the last one to leave needs to turn out the lights.....
Kelly Hansen
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Mr. Raines: Smoking Smileys I think someone needs a hug. free cute smileys 3001  Smiley
tim raines
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No huggin until you've had your swine flu shots.
Bea McManis
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Tim, Why did you move to Georgia? Just curious.
tim raines
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Bea, I moved to the Atlanta area 30 yrs ago for a great job, a booming economy, good weather, plenty of things to do, a fantastic quality of life, and the low cost of living that life. All of the above haven't changed except the increased traffic due to 10,000 people a MONTH, for the last 30 yrs, have moved to the metro area. Many of those new residents are from WNY. Like everyone says > whats not to like....(except a really good pizza).
Daniel Jones
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Tim-You would think with all of the ex-wnyers that someone would open a WNY style pizza place.
Richard Gahagan
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Same with Texas, can't get a decent pizza, italian bread, or a beef on wick. They tell me its because the dough doesn't rise well and takes in to much moisture from the high humidity air.

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