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WROTB hires Buffalo law firm to oppose suit filed by Maziarz; Park Road traffic patterns set to change

By Mike Pettinella

The law firm representing Western Regional Off-Track Betting Corp. is preparing to file a motion to dismiss a suit filed by a former state senator alleging that the public benefit company illegally offered health insurance to its directors and improperly distributed sporting event tickets.

That’s the word from WROTB President Henry Wojtaszek this morning following the monthly board of directors meeting at the Park Road facility.

“That’s correct,” Wojtaszek responded when asked by The Batavian if filing a motion to dismiss the lawsuit filed by George Maziarz was going to be the first order of business by attorneys for Hodgson Russ LLP of Buffalo. “We don't believe it's brought properly, either substantively or procedurally. So, we'll make a motion to dismiss right off the bat.”

In mid-May, Maziarz, a state senator from Niagara County for 10 years through 2014, met with local media across the street from Batavia Downs Gaming to provide details of his suit – action that focuses on previously investigated accusations of misuse of sporting event and concert tickets and the legality of “gold-plated” health insurance given to appointed board members.

An audit by the New York State Comptroller’s office criticized WROTB over the handling of the tickets and also use of a company vehicle stemming from 2018-19, but Wojtaszek said those issues have been addressed and corrected.

Wojtaszek contends that Maziarz is waging a personal vendetta against him and WROTB in retaliation of Maziarz’s conviction of public corruption while in office.

The corporation’s board of directors this morning approved a contract to pay Hodgson Russ up to $25,000 to fight the suit.

Hodgson Russ also is representing WROTB in a $14.5 million wrongful termination lawsuit filed last August by Michael Nolan, the former chief operating officer at WROTB who was let go of his position in December 2020.

“We are just waiting for the judge to rule on the motions that are before him right now,” Wojtaszek said today. “We expect that (to happen) in three to six months.”

In other developments, Wojtaszek reported:

  • The timetable of the Park Road Reconstruction Project “is coming along very well – we still anticipate them completing the project sometime in late September, early October.”

He said the traffic pattern may be changing soon, adding that Ryan Hasenauer, director of Marketing, will be sure to let the public know in advance.

“We met with the contractor, CATCO, yesterday and with the Town of Batavia, and there may be some effort to open up to two-way traffic at some points of Park Road to alleviate some of the traffic jams and also to help facilitate moving the project along and completing it in a more timely manner,” he said.

Wojtaszek said officials are looking at opening the road for two-way traffic starting at the intersection of Richmond Avenue (near Alex’s Place) and north toward Veterans Memorial Drive in the next couple weeks.

“The town needs to check with all the people involved, including the emergency services and the DOT (Department of Transportation) to make sure that can be accomplished. But again, we like to move to that next phase where maybe we reopened two-way traffic and where a different part of the road is closed off entirely.”

  • The “odds are good” that the track’s harness horse racing season will be extended into January and February of 2023 as negotiations with the Western New York Harness Horsemen’s Association are ongoing.

“We have a good relationship with the horsemen in Western New York,” he said. “They presented us with a very reasonable plan to have the racing occur here at Batavia Downs. So, the board is inclined to have the racing in January and February and we just have to work out the details of the contract.”

The 2022 racing season is set to begin on July 20 and originally was scheduled to run through Dec. 17 (with racing two or three nights per week). Previously, Wojtaszek indicated that the WNYHHA would reimburse Batavia Downs for the cost of operating in the first two months of next year.

  • WROTB is looking to streamline its Off-Track Betting branch locations, likely moving from the current 10 throughout the region to maybe seven or eight. Along those lines, the corporation is entertaining a purchase offer for Military Road branch in Niagara Falls and will be putting the West Ridge Road, Rochester, branch on the market soon.

“We have a lot of EZ Bets now and we have our machinery at different bars and restaurants that help alleviate the need for full-scale branches,” Wojtaszek said.

  • The corporation is considering hiring an insurance consultant in the wake of rising premiums.

The board approved a resolution to pay $1,089,824 to Garland Insurance & Financial Services for property and casualty liability insurance for one year, through June 1, 2023. Wojtaszek said the premium increase by about 7 percent from the previous year.

“The insurance industry has gone up, overall. We know that it’s a very tough environment, but the increase was substantial,” he said. “So, yes, we’d like to have someone else look at it try to help us with the insurance.”

Previously: Former state senator with his own corruption history files lawsuit against Batavia Downs alleging corruption

Previously: WROTB's Genesee County director sees 'no basis' for Nolan's lawsuit vs. corporation, president, board chair

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