Twenty year incumbent elected official Mary Holtz is in hot water over her personal use of a taxpayer funded vehicle. Operatives say that the revelations make her chances of reelection as Supervisor very unlikely, and they’ve started to wonder aloud whether she will even seek the party nomination this year.
It turns out that Holtz enjoys the use of a Town vehicle — not only to drive to and from work — but for all of her driving, both personal and for town business. Observers are incensed that she doesn’t own a private vehicle for her private use, making the situation particularly egregious.
Town employees note that Holtz uses the vehicle to attend political fundraisers, to perform canvasing activities, and to distribute propaganda during election season. Use of government property for political purposes is a red flag that often sets off investigations.
After much criticism of the Town of Cheektowaga’s policy on the personal use of taxpayer owned equipment — in light of a months long corruption investigation that was forwarded to the State Attorney General’s office — the Town Board voted to change the policy back to what it was prior to 2012.
This same policy language governed town officials before it was mysteriously amended two years ago. It was readopted yesterday and sponsored by Holtz.
But Holtz’s personal use of a taxpayer owned vehicle for political purposes has always been improper, despite the official policy on personal use of town equipment. It’s unclear whether Attorney General Eric Schniederman will make Holtz a focus of his investigation, which local political operatives expect to be forthcoming.
“Using government property, particularly government fleet vehicles, to attend political fundraisers or to perform canvassing is shocking and entirely improper,” says one longtime resident of Cheektowaga who has supported Holtz in past elections. “I don’t know how Mary can justify it. Using town equipment for personal purposes is bad enough, but to use it for political warfare is far worse.”
Her detractors say that Holtz’s behavior can be expected of an incumbent who has run the town for over 20 years — first as Clerk then as Supervisor. They think it illustrates her attitude toward’s the Town’s taxpayers, who continue to shoulder a heavy tax burden that stems from the spending levels of a Democrat party that sees itself as a machine.
Power corrupts, they say, and Holtz has ruled Cheektowaga with a politician’s sensibility — often trading favors for perks and looking the other way when political allies enjoy the town’s largess.
Both sides expect the issue factor in heavily to the Town Supervisor’s race, as the Attorney General responds to calls that it investigate what town employees refer to as “a culture of municipal corruption.”
Earlier this year there had been rumors that Holtz is considering retiring. Her poll numbers don’t look good and activists have questioned whether or not she can hold her own against the popular and charismatic Councilwoman who is considering a primary challenge.
They say that a soft landing in a cushy low-profile job inside the bureaucracy would be the typical exist strategy for a Democrat of Holtz’s tenure, but an appointment inside County Executive Mark Poloncarz’s administration is unlikely, they say.