TOP 10: George Maziarz steps down amid corruption probe (No. 1)

George Maziarz

Officials from Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center say they are negotiating a contract with George Maziarz that would allow the former state senator to serve in an advisory role on a month-by-month basis. 

Hospital officials confirmed Thursday that they have held discussions about retaining Maziarz's services, under a deal that CEO Joe Ruffolo said would cost between $2,000 and $3,000 per month. 

"He's been very loyal to the hospital for a number of years," Ruffolo said. "He represented the hospital's interest even when he wasn't representing Niagara Falls." 

Hospital board members who spoke to the Niagara Gazette said Maziarz has served as advisor without pay to the health care facility for several years. If they are able to reach a deal, board members said they expected Maziarz to provide assistance on a variety of matters, including those related to the hospital's finances.  

"George is continuing to talk with us on a regular basis to principally find every dollar we can to continue the mission of the hospital. He's the man who in the old days, when he was in office, made things happen in Niagara County," said hospital board member Judith Nolan-Powell. "We value his input and he's been a good friend to Niagara Falls and Niagara County for a number of years. We want to continue to reap the benefits of that intelligence for our patients in the community." 

Maziarz left office in July of 2014, formally announcing his retirement amid reports of an ongoing federal probe into his campaign committee's finances by the office of U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara. His campaign treasurer, Lauren Jacobs, who was an employee of the hospital's credit union at the time, was subpoenaed earlier in the year by investigators from Bharara's office who were seeking finance records from Maziarz's campaign.

Maziarz's retirement followed the departure, days before, of two of his top senate staffers, including chief of staff Alisa Colatarci and office manager Marcus Hall. Both stepped down after being subpoenaed by a federal grand jury in Manhattan.

Bharara conducted multiple investigations of public corruption in New York state government in the aftermath of the dismantling of the Moreland Commission on Public Corruption. That commission was disbanded not long after it was established by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

City and state magazine previously reported that Maziarz had been on the Moreland Commission’s radar before it was disbanded because he “shelled out more than $140,000 in campaign funds over a six-year period without identifying what, exactly, he purchased.” The magazine said the undocumented expenditures were “by far the most of any state lawmaker.”

State law restricts what campaign contributions can be spent on.

Attorneys for Maziarz's former staffers and campaign treasurer have indicated they don't believe their clients did anything wrong. Jacob's attorney, Terrence Connors, citing the secrecy of grand jury proceedings, declined to comment on whether she was even subpoenaed or what investigators may have been looking to find.

The attorney for Colatarci, the former United States Attorney for the Northern District of New York, Daniel French, did confirm his client was subpoenaed by the grand jury. He indicated that Colatarci is not the target of the investigation and has cooperated fully. 

Maziarz has denied any wrongdoing in connection with the investigation. His attorney, Joseph LaTona, has declined to discuss the case publicly. 

Members of the NFMCC board said Thursday they viewed Maziarz's input as beneficial to the organization, noting that he provided substantial support for the hospital during his tenure in office. 

When asked if Maziarz would be used as some type of lobbyist or consultant, hospital board member Don King said he viewed the position as an “advisory” role.

“I think the words consultant and lobbyist almost interface with each other,” King said. “I don’t know what the difference is.”

King noted that Maziarz’s support for the medical center dates back many years and he believed he could continue to serve as a strong advocate for the facility moving forward.

“I think he’s going to be employed in some capacity by the hospital to help us in a myriad of areas,” King said.

Maziarz did not respond to requests for comment late Thursday. 

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