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Vetting the Ellicott District candidates

There was a letter in my mailbox when I returned from vacation Monday that included a copy of a lien filed against one of the candidates vying for the vacant Ellicott Common Council seat. The lien was big enough to be newsworthy, but, to be fair, I felt the need to background all nine active candidates.

The result of that research is published in Saturday's Buffalo News. It ain't pretty.

Six of the nine candidates have had liens filed against them over time for failure to pay taxes, bills and, in one case, a parking ticket. One has been prosecuted in Housing Court, another keeps getting his car registration yanked for failure to pay city parking tickets or his auto insurance. And so on.

Only one candidate came away from my review of public records squeaky clean, Curtis Haynes Jr., a Buffalo State College economics professor.

Don allen Two others had the most serious problems. Donald Allen, pictured at left, a former city community services commissioner, has had 11 liens filed against him, seven for unpaid taxes, which total $47,180. He also filed for bankruptcy last year.

Federal and state tax officials have filed three liens totaling $14,011 against attorney William Trezevant. All the liens were paid off in fairly short order.

The rest of the candidates had comparatively minor, but not necessarily insignificant, issues with liens and what-not. 

I don't think most voters expect their elected officials to be fault-free when it comes to these kids of issues. But keep in mind that Council members make decisions involving hundreds of millions of dollars a year, and if some of the Ellicott wannabes have had trouble managing their own money, well, we ought to know about it.

A second point of relevance: These candidates are seeking to fill the seat vacated by Brian Davis, who my reporting last year revealed as a deadbeat, among other things. Isn't it ironic that six of the nine people who want to succeed him also have histories, to varying degrees, that involve a failure to pay their bills?

Whether my findings are grounds to disqualify anyone from the seat is not for me to say. That's up first to Democratic committeemen who meet this morning to vote on which candidate to recommend to the Council, and ultimately to Council members, who are expected to appoint a successor by the end of the month.

No matter the outcome, the decision makers have some useful intelligence to work with. The kind of information that I'll bet voters wish they had the last time Davis stood for election. If they knew then what they know now about Davis, I'll bet we wouldn't be having this conversation.

Update: Democratic committeemen selected the Rev. Darius Pridgen as the party's recommended candidate in a close vote on Saturday. The final decision rests with the Common Council. For all the details, read Bob McCarthy's account.

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City Hall | Politics
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