A group of Democrats from Niagara County called upon the New York State Attorney General to investigate the distribution of a mailer about a hazardous household waste collection event in Lockport in the fall of 2017 that was distributed by New York state Sen. Rob Ortt’s office. They wanted the attorney general to take a closer look at the list of names on the mailer, which included only Republican area leaders and not a single representative from the Democratic side of the aisle.
There’s a larger question here as to why any individual lawmakers, regardless of their party affiliation, were mentioned on the mailer at all.
The point should be to advertise the availability of a special waste drop-off day to area taxpayers and constituents.
Politics should be excluded, especially when, as was clearly noted on the mailer, the postcard advertising the event was paid for by the New York State Senate, which means it was underwritten by state taxpayers.
To date, nothing has been released publicly about any sort of probe involving the state attorney general and, sadly, Ortt and company are now at it again.
Households in Lockport last week received another mailer from Ortt’s office, advertising a special waste drop-off day set for Aug. 24 at Lockport Town Hall. The mailer exclusively mentions Republican office holders, including Niagara County legislators William Keith McNall, Tony Nemi, John Syracuse, Michael Hill and Will Collins, Sr., Lockport Town Supervisor Mark Crocker and town board members Darlene DiCarlo, Pat Dufour, Tom Keough and Paul Siejak.
The design of the mailer makes it look a lot like a veiled political campaign ad, just the sort of thing taxpayers shouldn’t be underwriting through Ortt’s state Senate office.
In follow-up reporting about the 2017 mailer dustup, the Union-Sun & Journal filed a formal Freedom of Information request seeking more information about the cost incurred by Ortt’s office for creating and distributing the mailer. In response, we received a copy of the rules for obtaining information through the state Senate which, as has been lamented in this space in the past, is not subject to the same Freedom of Information disclosure rules as are most other state agencies, authorities and local governments.
In other words, the true cost to create and distribute the original mailer never was made public, which adds to the affront to taxpayers.
While it appears the request from local Democrats for the state attorney general to investigate Ortt’s 2017 mailer wasn’t taken up, with another mailer advertising a public service while associating it with select local Republicans only, it’s clear that another request for a review is in order.
When a state senator sends out a mailer promoting a public event while using taxpayer money to endorse his political allies, there’s most definitely a problem.
When he does it a second time, it’s an outrage.