The chairman of the board of the Western Regional Off-Track Betting Corporation on Thursday addressed allegations of misconduct against President/Chief Executive Officer Henry Wojtaszek, stating that directors couldn’t be happier with the North Tonawanda resident’s job performance.
“Henry has been exonerated on all fronts,” said Richard Bianchi prior to the public benefit company’s monthly board meeting at Batavia Downs Gaming. “He has done an outstanding job. Before the COVID hit, we had record revenues and record attendance.”
Wojtaszek (in photo), a former Niagara County Republican chairman and an attorney, has been on the receiving end of assertions of wrongdoing from former State Sen. George D. Maziarz (Niagara County) related to his WROTB position and past employment.
Directors looked into Maziarz claims, hiring noted Buffalo attorney Terry Connors to investigate accusations into wrongful spending and misuse of Buffalo Bills and Sabres tickets, a company car and cell phone.
While not disclosing details of Connors’ 380-page report, Bianchi said it is a dead issue.
“The car and the phone are gone,” he said, adding that Wojtaszek has “brought Batavia Downs Gaming to great places” since taking over for Michael Kane, who retired in 2016.
The board has increased Wojtaszek’s pay by about 50 percent since he became president/chief executive officer, approving a salary of $191,938 in December.
Prior to that, Wojtaszek served as WROTB’s general counsel for six years and formerly was a partner at the law firm of Harris Beach and city attorney for North Tonawanda from 1998-2004.
At Maziarz’s urging, in April of last year, the FBI reportedly investigated claims of improper spending, but no criminal charges were filed.
Wojtaszek said he and his wife, Niagara County District Attorney Caroline Wojtaszek, have been victims of a smear campaign by Maziarz, who reportedly spent $20,000 on campaign mailers earlier this year in an unsuccessful attempt to discredit Caroline Wojtaszek during her primary run for Niagara County Court Judge.
Henry Wojtaszek said that Maziarz lashed out after being indicted in 2017 on five felony counts connected to Republican campaigns in Niagara County. Before a trial took place, Maziarz was offered a plea deal – a misdemeanor for a single campaign violation – which he accepted and paid a $1,000 fine.
Last year, Maziarz also claimed that Henry Wojtaszek engaged in a bid-rigging scheme to help Four Points Communications win a Niagara County grant-writing contract in 2012. Wojtaszek later worked for Four Points, earning about $50,000 in fees for work related to grants.
According to a July 21 story published in The Niagara Reporter:
Maziarz claimed that “Wojtaszek improperly pressured county officials in 2014 to deliver the grant writing contract to Four Points.” His accusation, however, reportedly was dismissed by a special prosecutor called in to conduct an extensive investigation.
It also was reported that special prosecutor Monroe County DA Sandra Doorley “found no basis for prosecuting Wojtaszek over claims brought by Maziarz.”
“Doorley was appointed special prosecutor by Justice Paula L. Feroleto, administrative judge of the Eighth Judicial District of State Supreme Court, because Wojtaszek’s wife is the Niagara County district attorney and could not investigate a case involving her husband," according to the published report.
When asked on Thursday about all of this controversy, Henry Wojtaszek told The Batavian it is all because of an “unhinged, vengeful and disgraced politician (Maziarz) with an ax to grind.”
He also said he appreciates the board “taking the time to do an exhaustive investigation at Batavia Downs” and he and his officers are looking forward “to continuing to do the job on behalf of the corporation and the municipalities it serves.”