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Guilty (Reilly), and more guilty (Brown)

Mayor Byron Brown had it right when he said Brian Reilly had too much on his plate serving  both as commissioner of economic development, permits and inspections and as president of the Buffalo Economic Renaissance Corp.

What the mayor failed to say, however, is that it was Brown who loaded Reilly's plate like a starving man on a buffet line.

In other words, Brown, in forcing Reilly to step down as BERC president, is cleaning up his own mess.

Brown hired Reilly a year ago February as the city's chief economic development official. The mayor then gave Richard Tobe the boot and put Reilly in charge of the permit and inspections department that Tobe had headed. Meanwhile, the mayor failed to fill a budgeted position to oversee green issues and dumped that work in Reilly's lap, as well. All the while, Reilly headed up BERC.

Not that this made Reilly immune from doing political homework assigned by Deputy Mayor Steve Casey. In whatever spare time Reilly might have otherwise had last summer, he was spotted carrying petitions for candidates favored by the mayor.

But before you start feeling sorry for Reilly, keep in mind that he didn't help himself.

The decision to change BERC's insurance options in a way that allowed him to put the woman he lives with on his health insurance policy may or may not have involved skulduggery, but it certainly displayed poor judgment.

Ditto for his defense of Michelle Barron in the wake of the One Sunset restaurant fiasco.

Double-ditto for his MO of not returning calls to a wide range of people and snarling at many of them when he did pick up the phone. He turned off a lot of people in the development community pretty quickly, people in both corporate suites and grass-roots organizations.

But Reilly has not played a central role in most of the controversies to beset the city's economic development efforts since he arrived on the scene.

There's the decision, subject to likely rejection by the Common Council, to select a team headed by former Council President James Pitts to develop a waterfront hotel. It was Brown, not Reilly, who ramrodded that decision through the Buffalo Urban Renewal Agency.

There's the money and manpower lent by BERC to help Leonard Stokes run One Sunset into the ground within a year of opening. Most of the damage was done by the time Reilly was hired.

P.S.:  the guy Stokes met with at City Hall to help make things happen was named Brown, not Reilly.

It was Brown, not Reilly, who carried on about the supposed $4.5 billion in economic development activity that turned out to be a lot of smoke and mirrors.

There's the blind eye the administration has turned to sustainable economic development or just about anything else having to do with green.

And, of course, there's the ongoing ... and ongoing ... and ongoing squandering of federal block grant funds and accompanying critical audits by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Jimmy Griffin got the ball rolling, plowing money into the salaries of bureaucrats and loans to dubious development deals. Tony Masiello did likewise. And not much has changed under Brown,

If anything, things have perhaps gotten worse, considering the most recent HUD audit released this spring found no fewer than 19 serious deficiencies. And when the Common Council wanted documents to help get to the bottom of things, it had to resort to filing Freedom of Information requests that the administration took its sweet time in responding to -- and not completely, at that.

Is any of this Brian Reilly's fault?

Nope. The buck stops at the mayor's desk.

In short, shed no tears for Brian Reilly. He's still got $91,162 in salary to keep him warm -- and to help his girlfriend buy health insurance.

At the same time, remember who is really calling the shots, who ultimately is responsible for this mess. It's the guy, two months away from a primary, who all of a sudden is preaching "change and reform."

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City Hall | Economic Development
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