Democrat Chairman Jeremy Zellner’s handpicked County Legislator Howard Johnson, who has held the District 1 seat for the past two months threatens a former State Democratic Party official for ‘politicizing’ the Erie County Democratic Party.
In recent weeks, the newly appointed County Legislator Howard Johnson of Buffalo sent a sequence of threatening emails to James Eagan, an influential businessman and former State Party official who served as Secretary of the State Democratic Committee. In the email he warned Eagan to stop ‘politicizing’ Chairman Jeremy Zellner’s campaign finance irregularities and more than $100,000 of credit card charges that have been unaccounted for. Johnson implied that ominous consequences could result.
Johnson is seeking election to the County Legislature in District 1 for the first time. That’s the seat that City Comptroller Barbara Miller-Williams vacated upon the recommendation(I believe she was appointed by the Council) by Mayor Byron Brown to become City Comptroller. Miller-Williams is a close Brown ally and was seen as an independent voice on the County Legislature
Several years ago Johnson was shot at Pandora’s Sports Bar, a tavern on Fillmore Avenue with a reputation for a good fish fry by day, and a young hard-partying crowd by night. The venue has been the site of multiple shootings over many years, and homicides frequent the sidewalk in front of the establishment.
The circumstances surrounding Johnson being shot have remained unclear, and the candidate has refused to discuss how often he frequents the establishment or to publicly explain the circumstances surrounding the shooting.
Johnson was endorsed by Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz.
Many local operatives interpret the move as part of a broader effort by Poloncarz and Zellner to undermine Mayor Brown’s political organization.
Johnson is the ‘political enforcer’ of Arthur Eve, Jr., the Deputy Commissioner of the Erie County Board of Elections, a Zellner operative. Zellner orchestrated Johnson’s appointment to fill the vacancy a few weeks ago.
The departure of former City Comptroller Mark Schroeder, after being appointed by Governor Cuomo as the commissioner of the Department of Motor Vehicles was seen as a blow to the Zellner-Poloncarz machine.
In recent months, Zellner and Poloncarz have been doing all they can to ensure that party bosses keep control of the District 1 seat.
Threatening Eagan may have just crossed a very big line.
Those emails were in response to a letter that Eagan circulated calling for an investigation into ECDC’s suspect bookkeeping:
James J. EaganJune 10th, 2019Open Letter to Erie County DemocratsDear fellow Democrats:As reported by the Buffalo News this past Sunday, I filed a complaint with the Erie County Board of Elections regarding possible campaign finance violations by the Erie County Democratic Committee. Here is a link to a copy of the complaint for your review. Click here to view complaintPlease note the following:
- Commissioner Zellner refused to forward the complaint to the investigative division of the NYS board of Elections for review.
- Commissioner Zellner insists that he is not conflicted.
- Commissioner Zellner’s excuse is “clerical error” (dating back to 2012)
- There are credit card payments totaling $201,743.47. Only $101,813.14 of charges are accounted for and itemized. There are $105,930.53 of charges not accounted for.
- There are loan payments to M&T back dating back to 2012 and being made this year (from the Housekeeping account) that have never been listed as a liability on any filing.
- Commissioner Zellner made sure there was no clerical error relating the loan his own campaign committee made to the Party committee for $25,000.
- ECDC’s 2018 32 Day Pre-Special Committee Account filing lists a payment to I.C. Systems Inc.a Collection Agency, for $893.71 on 03/09/2018. This liability is not accounted for on any financial filing.
- Commissioner Zellner failed to itemize expenditures that are over $50. There are 153 expenditures over $50 totaling $49,370.17. As an example, ECDC spent $1,123.35 on 7/12/18, $1,823.69 on 7/13/17 and $2,438.38 on 7/11/16, all filed as unitemized. Where is this money being spent?Where is the money? How is he spending your donations? We need transparency and accountability.Sincerely,Jim EaganECDC Bylaws“ARTICLE XI – FINANCIAL REPORTS”“Section 1. Full compliance will be held with the disclosure and filling requirements of the New York State Election Law”“Article 14 and any other applicable law(s); and a biennial financial report of the County Committee shall be prepared and shall be posted on the party’s website with notice thereof to be contained in the meeting notice of the biennial re- organization meeting. Such report shall be prepared by a five (5) member Financial Oversight Subcommittee of the Executive Committee, appointed by the chair and confirmed by the Executive Committee, and shall provide a detailed report on expenditures and receipts, as well as any debts entered into by the Executive Committee including the amounts, parties owed, terms and guarantors, as applicable”“The Financial Oversight Committee shall also have the power to review or audit the financial affair of the party committee, including the “housekeeping” committee and subordinate committees and shall report, regularly to the Executive Committee about financial issues.”An audit of the financial records, including the income, expenditures and outstanding liabilities of the party, shall “be conducted by an outside independent firm, on an annual basis, with the report to be submitted to the Executive”