Note: Mr. Wojtaszek is CEO of Western New York Regional Off Track Betting, a public agency owned by the taxpayers of Western New York. It operates a race track and casino in Batavia along with a network of off-track betting parlors. By law its profits are supposed to be distributed to local governments to benefit the public.
Dear Mr. Wojtaszek,
In my 40 years of work around politicians and political operatives I have seen many who were skilled in the art of using public agencies for their personal benefit. But I have never seen any more talented at this than you.
Making Western Regional Off-Track Betting (WROTB) the base for your political operations was genius. Tens of millions of dollars of takings from gamblers flows through its coffers each year. That creates huge opportunities to steer funds to you and your friends and you have used those opportunities like a master.
Let’s begin with your personal salary. Under the new contract you engineered last April you now get more than $272,000 per year plus benefits. That’s more than the governor of New York makes, more than the vice president of the United States. You now make more money off WROTB in a year than 12 of the western New York counties that actually own it.
That is one sweet deal for managing a casino and a race track in a town of 16,000 people.
The way you got that giant contract is a true master class in political manipulation. Just days before New York lawmakers passed legislation to replace the WROTB board because of its questionable financial dealings, the old board suddenly boosted your salary by almost $70,000 (an increase of nearly 40%) and then locked it in for three years.
It was like saying to the New York Legislature, “Hey, you really think you can take away power from me, Henry J. Wojtaszek? Hold my martini and watch this.”
What do you do with that much money? Is it a yacht, a Ferrari, a luxury vacation home? How many pairs of $1,200 Louis Vuitton shoes does one family need to be content?
Every extra dollar you take in exorbitant salary comes directly out of the funds going to local governments for public use. Imagine how that $70,000 could be used to help real people here in Niagara County. It could help keep families from becoming homeless. It could support our high school graduates who can’t afford college or trade school.
But no, you decided that it would be better spent by adding another giant pile of the people’s money onto what was already one of the highest public employee salaries in the state of New York.
This kind of raw greed and arrogance takes a political fortress to defend and here is where your political skills have really been on full display.
The responsibility to keep things at the agency honest and well-run lies with its board of directors. But there is good reason that the WROTB board never seriously questioned how you run the agency. A majority of its members received one of the finest perks anywhere – an illegal, luxury health plan in exchange for attending a meeting two days a month at the track. Your fierce defense of those illegal health plans bought you a great deal of loyalty – enough to hand you more than three quarters of a million dollars in pay over the next three years.
Then there are the big-money contracts you have doled out to your political friends and allies. Under your direction WROTB has handed out hundreds of thousands of dollars in contracts to lobbyists, public relations people, and lawyers. This is a terrific 2 for 1 deal for you. It has allowed you to hand out lucrative work to your top supporters while also creating an entire taxpayer-funded defense system against all calls for accountability. This really is political genius.
Sprinkle on top of that all those luxury box seats to Bills and Sabers games that you’ve handed out like candy. It is hard to imagine a more well-oiled loyalty operation, and all at our expense as taxpayers.
And then we have our brave Niagara County legislators. The new state law shaking up the OTB board actually increases our county’s voting power. But the Republican majority, your friends, recently voted to spend even more of our tax money to hire high-priced lawyers and try to overturn the law. This is not about protecting the interest of county taxpayers. It is about protecting your power. You’ve turned our legislators into puppets.
Now on top of all this you are using even more of our money to run TV ads telling us how much we should all love you.
The people of Western New York are not idiots. We know what greed and arrogance looks like, especially when it is coming out of our pockets. The way in which you are fleecing an agency owned by the taxpayers to your personal benefit is shameful. But here’s the thing Mr. Wojtaszek. Not even the most powerful political fortress can stand forever. Not even yours.