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A scandal bigger than just One Sunset

So, Byron Brown, chairman of the Buffalo Economic Renaissance Corp., says Brian Reilly, president of the Buffalo Economic Renaissance Corp., is going to investigate the Buffalo Economic Renaissance Corp.'s role in the One Sunset restaurant fiasco.

This is so like the Brown Administration.

When confronted with a problem, call for a study, rather than act.

Kind of like poverty. Appoint a deputy mayor charged specifically with combating poverty, wait a year and then issue a paper essentially calling for a study.

Only, with the case of One Sunset, the investigation already has been done. By The News.

It is unrealistic to expect any government to investigate its own actions, much less one as obsessed over image as is Brown and Co.

All of a sudden, the mayor wants to get to the bottom of matters? The same mayor and some of his people at BERC were not exactly cooperative during our investigation.

Brown refused to be interviewed, as did Brian Davis, his fellow Grass Rooter and the Common Council's rep on the BERC board who has a history with the restaurant that includes a bounced check.

Then there's the BERC attorney, who used time lines spelled out in the state Freedom of Information Law in an effort to delay release of records on at least three occasions, especially as our deadline approached and time became an issue.

And while Michelle Barron agreed to an interview, chaperoned by the BERC attorney, it consisted largely of answers along the lines of "I don't know," and "I didn't go anything out of the ordinary."

In other words, we got name, rank and serial number.

The rank, by the way, is vice president for neighborhood economic development. At $76,323 a year, it's nice work if you can get it with a high school diploma and a flair for painting bar stools.

In all likelihood, the folks running BERC knew they had a problem long before Patrick Lakamp and I started nosing around. Barrons' role in the operation of the restaurant wasn't exactly a secret and was the source of consternation with some of her fellow staffers.

Having Reilly now look into matters could be construed as an effort at damage control. One that I have a hunch is too little, too late.

Ultimately, the story behind One Sunset is endemic of a much larger scandal, and that's the way City Hall has used and abused Community Development Block Grant funds going all the way back to Jimmy Griffin.

Here we are, now the nation's third-poorest city, going on our fourth decade of wasting anti-poverty money.

Think about that.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has been documenting the waste for the better part of 20 years, while choosing to do nothing about it other than the periodic slap of the wrist. People are aghast - for a while, anyway - but then things quiet down and it's back to business as usual.

But my sense is things will be different this time around. We're not just talking another critical HUD review, with its technical findings and bureaucratic recommendations.

Now we're talking things people can relate to - and get outraged about.

Stuff like One Sunset, the use of block grant funds to equip bureaucrats with BlackBerrys, and  Brian Davis bouncing checks, dodging bill collectors and falsifying resumes.

So, let the mayor have his people look into it. Me, I'm wondering where the real watchdogs are.

HUD has an inspector general. The New York Attorney General and the FBI have public integrity units. Erie County has a district attorney. 

If Brian Davis didn't get their attention, you'd think Michelle Barron would.


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