Brian Davis: Back to Work
by Geoff Kelly - posted 3:37 pm, February 17, 2009
Ellicott District Councilmember Brian Davis is back in City Hall today, after a two-week medical leave that he happened to take just as charges surfaced that he bounced a check for more than $3,500 and skipped out on a private loan of $5,000 more. Brian Meyer of the Buffalo News writes:
When pressed by a reporter today to discuss the controversy, Davis would only say he expects the issue to be “resolved” by the end of the week.
“It’s in the hands of my attorney right now,” he said.
Davis also declined to discuss reports published in ArtVoice that other unidentified store owners on the Lower West Side and East Side have had problems with some of the lawmakers’ checks. Davis would only say the allegations were spread by a “political opponent.”
You can read the story Meyer refers to here. Basically, a bunch of Lower West Side deli owners grudgingly admitted to me that they’d had problems with Davis cashing checks in their stores, and that they were afraid to talk about it because Davis had the power to have their operating licenses pulled.
I first heard stories about Davis passing bad checks several months ago, from someone who has alternately been an ally of and had run-ins with Davis. It’s true that this particular story, about the deli owners, was brought to me by Bryon McIntyre, who challenged Davis in the 2007 Democratic primary for the Ellicott seat. (I indicated as much in my article.) But I checked the allegations by visiting the delis where McIntyre had heard complaints, plus several more.
So in the end, the allegations come from the deli owners themselves, not from Davis’s political rivals. Last week, neither Davis nor his attorney would respond to these allegations. This doesn’t seem much of a response, either. The deli owners have no political relationship with Davis, for or against, as far as I can tell.
I called Davis’s attorney today to ask him again about these allegations, plus a few more. He hasn’t called back yet. When he does, I plan to ask him a few questions about the accepted narrative of this scandal: What compelled Davis to step in and write a rent check for the failing restaurant One Sunset, when he could not afford to do so? I have a copy of the ethics disclosure form Davis filed with Buffalo’s City Clerk for 2008, and he indicates no business association with One Sunset—no business associations at all, in fact. If Davis was not a partner in the restaurant, why would he make trouble for a failing business and himself by writing that check to Kevin Brinkworth, One Sunset’s landlord?
The other question is how One Sunset managed to fail so quickly and completely, despite $80,000 in loans from BERC (now in default), another $50,000 in loans from ECIDA (possibly in default, too, though I have not been able to confirm this), a $20,000 community development block grant to overhaul the facade, and a lot of good press (including a positive review from this newspaper, for what that’s worth). We’ll continue looking into the story of One Sunset’s failure, its defaulted loans, and Davis’s apparent interest in keeping the place afloat.