Two prominent Democrat officials tell me that Maurice Garner, the founder of Grassroots, Inc, is brokering “a peace deal” with Unity Coalition — a shocking development that would have been unthinkable a few short months ago.
The two political clubs have been bitter longtime rivals and their membership has been dwindling in recent years. Both clubs are long past their prime, with distasteful organizational cultures built on bullying and intimidation that make it hard to recruit new members — and even harder to inspire voters to back their endorsed candidates. Their endorsements have become a political liability, distasteful to those who are not members of the club.
The sources say that Garner fears that he is the target of the ongoing joint FBI and State Police investigation into the dealings of his business partner, the renowned political operative G. Steven Pigeon.
Pigeon, along with former Deputy Mayor Steve Casey — long referred to as “Mayor Brown’s iron fist” and “Pigeon’s puppet,” was included in the search warrant. That would indicate that the investigation has progressed much more deeply than County Legislator Betty Jean Grant’s campaign finance complaint.
Critics of the peace deal say that it would be a horrible move for Unity to associate itself with an organization that is currently under FBI investigation and whose alleged practices are suspect. Let Grassroots implode and watch from afar, they advise. Those operatives argue that now is the time for a full slate of top tier candidates for Common Council — especially in Ellicott, Masten, and University.
Some operatives posit that the investigation involves Mayor Brown’s 2013 reelection campaign, questioning campaign cash flows that look unseemly, potentially constituting vendor-disguised kickbacks and outright bribes from city contractors. Garner and Brown are thought to be the targets of the investigation.
Pigeon’s attorney, former Attorney General Dennis Vacco, says that his “solicitations for cooperation have gone unanswered,” confirming that his client is looking to cooperate with investigators.
Garner is the Chairman of the Urban Chamber of Commerce, which includes his bio on its website:
CHAIRMAN OF THE BOARD
Maurice Garner, President of an influential lobbying firm—Garner Associates LLC, is often referred to as a political sage for his countless achievements in Western New York’s political landscape. Garner is a prominent political strategist and player, who has long supported and organized urban-focused initiatives, including the campaigns of various public servants in Western New York and, namely, the first African-American mayor of the City of Buffalo, Byron W. Brown.
In his most recent position as the Neighborhood Services Director for Erie County’s Community Action Organization, Garner initiated various citizen participation and capacity building programs; developed business opportunities to anchor inner-city communities; and, secured record investment and grant dollars for the agency. While serving as the Deputy City Comptroller from 2000-2003, Garner utilized his extraordinary ability to create solid, focused, organizational objectives that yielded copious, cutting edge outcomes for the City of Buffalo. He was noted for successfully addressing multifaceted, complex financial issues while maintaining the integrity of the Comptroller’s office. From 1992-2004, Garner worked as Senior Executive Assistant to County Executive, Dennis T. Gorski. In this capacity, Garner thrived with integrity, competency, and accountability in one of the highest positions in County Government ever held by an African-American. Exemplifying his long standing commitment to the Western New York, Garner has held other positions as an Organizer for Citizen Action of New York and Youth Counselor for Community Action Organization, where he made long standing impacts.
As he often states, Garner is “committed to ensuring that government actions and electeds foster progress, accountability, and opportunities for all to participate in the liberty of the American promise.”