|Maybe landlord David Ulrich (above) has the best deal for Niagara County taxpayers to store their voting booths. But honest government requires an RFP to make sure.
Ah, the sweet smell of vindication.
On October 2, the Niagara Falls Reporter started questioning Niagara County’s leasing arrangements with Clear Opportunity Properties, LLC, a company owned by developer David Ulrich. Ulrich is a well-known political contributor to George Maziarz and the Niagara County Republican Party. Last month, Ulrich’s company was awarded a five-year, $125,000 a year lease for records storage at 1961 Transit Road in Burt, New York without any search by the County for other prospectively suitable spaces.
That process, known as soliciting a Request for Proposals (RFP), was allegedly unnecessary according to County Attorney Claude Joerg. Minority Democrats felt that it would have been worth looking to see if a better deal was out there, and the Reporter agreed. Notwithstanding our disapproval, the deal for the records storage went forward.
However, in a victory for transparency and open government, the County Legislature’s Administration Committee would not forward a resolution to extend Clear Opportunity’s lease to store voting machines at the same facility. The County has been leasing it with Ulrich since 2008 for $86,400 a year.
Now, thanks to the efforts of Minority Leader Dennis Virtuoso and Legislator Jason Zona, and the shining light of good, clean journalism, there has been a reversal. The Administration Committee is going to review the situation and look into how to ensure that the County gets the best possible value for the voting machine storage transaction. Published reports have Administration Committee Chairman Keith McNall speculating on possibly doing an RFP.
Hmmm, where have I heard that before?
It is quite refreshing to see our elected officials acting in the best interests of the taxpayers of the community in which they serve. From the start, this has been about making sure the taxpayers are getting the best deal. If Ulrich and Clear Opportunity represent the best offer, let us see the proof. All we are asking for is transparency. In this manner, the political overtones go away and we are left with a clear and open government.
It should be obvious whether a lease deal, or any business arrangement done by the government, is really a savings for the taxpayers or a benefit for a political contributor. As it stands for voting machine storage, we may have a straight answer.
Recognizing that the price of liberty is eternal vigilance, we will continue to watch how this situation transpires. This should also serve as a message to all potential landlords and dealmakers out there to pay attention as well. Healthy competition is good for everybody. Let’s all proceed in a manner in which everyone wins.