Max alleges that Benczkowski is working to suppress Cheektowaga corruption scandal

Cheektowaga Town Councilwoman Diane Benczkowski is attempting to keep a a jaw-dropping report from the public, alleges Frank Max — a bitter political rival who sees her a threat to his grip on Town patronage.

Over the last several months a corruption investigation into the Town’s Highway Department and a contractor, The Viking Company, has been underway.

When the Board convenes at 6:00pm this evening, it is expected that they will go into Executive Session to discuss the report. Observers in both factions of the Democratic Party, which controls Cheektowaga, expect the report to be forwarded to the New York Attorney General’s Office — but they do not expect it to be made public.

Protesters are expected to attend the meeting and to demand that the scathing report be made publicly available. The report details the investigation’s findings and sheds light into, what a senior Democratic Party operative calls, “a culture of municipal corruption.” Among the findings:

  • Highway Superintendent Mark Wagner directed asphalt millings belonging to the Town to be used at a private job site. Rather than using the ground road millings for work on Town repaving sites, the millings were diverted to the Lancaster Country Club, where they were used to repave the parking lot. In return, Wegner was named “Member of the Month.”
  • Mark Wegner and his assistant misallocated $40,000 in payroll payments to employees who were not performing work for the Town. Mike Lumadue, for instance, was paid for seventeen and half weeks without working. Over 740 comp hours were involved in the case of that employee alone.
  • Mike Lumadue, a Highway Department employee, used Town equipment at no cost to remove a swimming pool from his backyard, which he said was authorized by Mark Wegner.
  • Mark Wagner directed employees to go on a fishing trip in Northern Ontario.  The Foreman of that group was Tony Lewandowski, who, with three additional employees of the Town, went on the all expenses paid trip. It was paid for by The Viking Company, which performs “outrigging work” for the Town. They supply heavy equipment for highway maintenance work.
  • Darryl Stachurra, a driver for the Highway Department, took home Town equipment — a large wood chipper — for personal use at his home on Cuomo Park Boulevard. He removed all of the trees on his property with the Town equipment at no cost, which he claims was authorized by Mark Wegner.
  • Other employees were allowed to go golfing on Town time.

Wegner is very close to Erie County Democratic Party Chairman Jeremy Zellner and County Executive Mark Poloncarz. They are so close that — when former Councilman Charlie Markel was ousted from the Board for illegally collecting 71 weeks of unemployment benefits — Wegner lobbied Poloncarz to give the disgraced Councilman a job. He was first hired in the Poloncarz Administration last year, and was hired two months ago at the Erie County Water Authority.

Benczkowski has been working with Phillips Lytle attorney Ken Manning to conceal the report from the public. She has been working with Phillips Lytle since her time on the School Board, when she was brought up on charges that she had been leaking personnel information. The Board attempted to remove her, so she hired the high priced firm and fought the removal. Manning is known locally as “a fixer.”

Zellner and Poloncarz have been plotting to push longtime Town Supervisor Mary Holtz out of office. They are widely expected to back Benczkowski.

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14 comments

  1. Great investigative reporting! We need people like you to expose the information local politicians would like to hide from the voters. Had you not been able to obtain some of the details they would be telling us it involved a minor transgression not worthy of further investigation. But once you were able to expose some of the specifics, they had to act. Hopefully you’ll be able to get the full report and publish here.

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  2. This is only the “tip of the iceberg”, wait ’till they discover what she and zaminski have done and “covered up” in the rest of the Town departments since she muscled her way onto the Town board! The $650,000 dollar concrete at taxpayer expense debacle that her and zaminski covered up, comes to mind for one! The expensive mess they created and covered up in the Town court that is costing the taxpayers dearly when they care of the “nut” piotrowski is but one more! Put them all together and some of these should be going to jail to protect the highest paying taxpayers in the county! Simply disgusting, let’s see if the authorities will actually do their job this time or let it just fade away like so many other times!

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  3. It is very ironic that Mary Holtz and Jerry Kaminski are making these baseless and frivolous allegations that hold NO MERIT against Diane Benczkowski and Mark Wegner (at Cheektowaga Taxpayers expense) while they turned a blind eye (and took NO action) to the allegations supported by evidence and probable cause presented to both Mary and Jerry by Diane Benczkowski that recently retired Town employee and former Cheektowaga Democratic Town Chairman Frank Max while still on the Town payroll was allegedly committing Fraud, larceny and filing of a false instrument by allegedly signing in for overtime and getting paid for same(once again at Cheektowaga Taxpayers financial expense) and not even being at work. By the way if these allegations are true, now all New York State taxpayers are being fleeced because this boosts Franks pension for the rest of his life. Mary and Jerry need to be asked what legal action they took against a formed Town Employee who worked in the Highway Dept. that was recently fired by Mark for allegedly committing workers compensation fraud. Was no legal action taken by Mary and Jerry because this individual has a relative who sits on the Town Council that is an ally of Mary and Jerry. Jerry needs to be asked if there is any truth to the allegations that he has a conflict of interest with his Business dealings and third parties while being a seated Town Council member. I have personally known Diane for over 40 years and Mark for over 20 years and I know them to have the highest of integrity. For people like Mary Holtz and Jerry Kaminski to attempt a political assination of these fine and upstanding individuals is absolutely appalling. Lets not forget what kind of individuals Mary and Jerry really are and what their motives really are. Both Mary and Jerry played the same games and showed their appalling behavior towards former Town Council Member and now New York State Assembly Woman Angela Wozniak and where did that get them. The public saw right through them. Mary the public finally saw through you and will NEVER re-elect you, and Jerry the public knows what you are all about and you can FORGET about ever being Town Supervisor or winning re-election to the Town Council. People stay tuned, when the time is right (right around re-election the facts and evidence will be produced to the Town of Cheektowaga residents. The residents of Cheektowaga deserve better then selfish indivduals who are nothing more then bullies like Mary and Jerry who have the belief they are entitled to the positions of power they now hold. Mary and Jerry your days of elected office are over and you are going to be sent packing if it hairlips the Governor!!!

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  4. I don’t buy it.

    Seems to me that someone got to the author of this story and convinced him of one side of the charge, yet the author did not reach out to Diane B. for her side.

    Fortunately, the other local media outlets did seek Diane’s side, and she sounds very credible and sincere, to me that is. She not only does not condone the allegations outlined in this story, seems to me that she is the one who wanted to put a stop to this abuse in the first place.

    The reporter was fooled into the harshness concerning Diane, but the investigation’s findings reflect more on other politicians in Cheektowaga – and please don’t forget, Diane was just installed in 2014 after winning her position in 2013.

    I sure hope that Diane is not dejected by this twist of facts that were designed to beat her up unfairly, but in the end should make her stronger and forewarned for future political bomb throwers.

    I think the end result is that Cheektowaga voters will believe this abuse reflects on the past five years or so of constant scandal in the town, with respect to several self-serving politicians who have histories of being drunk with power.

    Keep you head high Diane!!!!

    At the end of the day, it’s all about Humpty Dumpty having a great fall, and all the king’s horses and all the king’s men trying to put Frank Max back together again. Good luck with that.

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  5. I think writers on this site are good people and mean well,however this investigarion by the state should be welcomed by all.i take pause however when she claims to have information that wasn’t reviewed against some other employee in the town..she claims she talked to the Cheektowaga police and the da..she claims she hired a private investigator at her own expense.as a town employee for quite some time that’s why we have a personnel director..for fact.as a member of the union diane should know how the process goes..people in the town would like to know about her dirty tricks campaign.look into the donut delivery and food to employees they still don’t like her..

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  6. diane has some serious issues..when she was on the Depew school board they tried to remove her..she hired Philips lytle law firm and really disrupted the pto group representing the kids..we were all happy when she left the board years ago..she really is looking for attention..diane why don’t you tell the news about your hot tob escapades at stachuras house with mark and the boys..don’t fib we live right near Darryl.. you are attacking others that seem to be nice people..why are you such a grandstander..

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  7. I hope mark wegner comes clean..his brother in law and wife are selling his bar from under him..oops.thats right he never owned it..to the mad knitter ask wegner and diane about their efforts to get Charlie markel a job at the water authority.i was present and have spoken to authorities about this.

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    • What a scandal…. So much info out there about what goes on in that highway department ! The naps in town trucks,
      The lottery runs to Carl’s on tax payers time.
      The highway superintendent drunk at the bar,
      While directing town employees.
      Between Mark, Darryl and his wife they have been living in their own lil camalot. Doing whatever they like and no one to answer to.
      How did Darryl’s unqualified wife get that job with the highway department when many other qualified people were overlooked ?? What a joke
      I hope they all suffer through this and pay the price for call of their deceipt and theft and abuse of position !!!
      GET THEM ALL OUT NOW !!!!

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  8. The posts on here all seem to be pretty personal. Like 99% of the taxpayers in Cheektowaga, I don’t work for the Town or play in the local political sandbox with all the wanna-be kids who are actually senior citizens like this lady! I’m just a everyday person who works three jobs and I think i can speak for the 99% of good hardworking people of Cheektowaga without a financial interest when I say that we are all tired of these scam artist elected officials. Those two, the scamming highway super and the aiding and abetting town council member, look like the two biggest crooks I have ever seen!!! Who would ever vote for these jokers again?! They’re almost worse than the “welfare cheat” guy who got kicked off the council last year and tried to run again right away – hope that schmuck is in jail where he belongs right now.

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  9. I read with shock the accusation that mary h and Kaminski went after angela wozniak..when angela uncovered a sidewalk scandal angela called pay to play diane met with wegner and issued a news statement that everything was resolved.if you remember the facts diane isolated angela wozniak from any further activity with highway..she excluded the entire board without their knowledge..ask ms.wozniak..quit reading that numb skull tony fracasso at speakup..

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