Alan Bedenko’s legal work for Erie County raises questions of Poloncarz patronage

Alan Bedenko's legal work with the County has raised questions about the propriety of his relationship with Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz.

The local blogger Alan Bedenko, who has been known to relentlessly smear weak opposition candidates for public office who dare to challenge headquarters aligned Democrat incumbents.  His political musings were had once appeared as a regular feature in Artvoice and later in The Public.  

Bedenko’s critics have raised questions about the propriety of his relationship with Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz, a longtime political compatriot. Bedenko has relentlessly defended Poloncarz’s political interests, typically by smearing political newcomers who seek low-level County Legislature offices.

Bedenko lost a race for the Legislature to Legislator Ed Rath in 2007.

Poloncarz appointed his loyal propagandist to Board of Trustees of the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library.  He was elevated to Vice Chairman in 2017.

An investigation by The Buffalo Chronicle reveals that his former law firm Feldman Kieffer billed Erie County more than $529,000 between 2012 and 2018.  That firm had no County billings in the fiscal years prior to 2012.  Poloncarz was elected County Executive in November of 2011.

Andrew Feldman, the firm’s founder, did not return a request for comment.

The vast majority of the firm’s billings to the County are attributed to Bedenko’s billing code, and his name appears on at least 190 invoices to the County, which are often authorized for payment with the signature of Jeremy Toth, a longtime Poloncarz operative who currently serves as County Attorney.

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Now new questions are being raised about the propriety of Bedenko’s relationship with Poloncarz.  Has the attorney been trading political propaganda for legal work with the County?

The County Executive is able to purchase legal and professional services outside of the rigorous procurement and oversight processes that are typical of construction, property, and equipment spending. A small or midsized firm’s revenues can swing wildly with the favor of local powerbrokers — which appears to have been the case with Bedenko’s tenure at Feldman Keiffer.

Bedenko joined the firm as an Associate, billing the County $100 p/hr, which grew to $160 p/hr as the legal work that he received from the County grew and Bedenko was named a Partner.  In 2016 alone, the firm billed the County more than $216,000.

Bedenko’s legal work for the County ranged widely, defending the County in various litigations and proceedings.  His largest billings relate to defending the County against liabilities related to children while their Child Protective Services case files were open.

He left Feldman Kieffer in 2018 and joined Burden, Hafner & Hansen as an Associate.  That firm’s website describes him as “a trial attorney who defends people, businesses, and municipal entities being sued in the state and federal courts throughout New York.”

“He has regularly handled the defense of cases involving automobile liability, premises liability, toxic torts, nursing home negligence, employment law, labor law, products liability, and municipal law/government liability. He has almost 20 years’ experience defending personal injury claims.”

Neither Donna Burden, the firm’s managing partner, nor Mr. Bedenko, returned requests for comment.

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