Paladino vs. the Buffalo News
by Geoff Kelly - posted 4:00 pm, March 25, 2011
After being sidelined for some time with health issues, Buffalo News investigative reporter Jim Heaney has swung back into action this month, and his subject is developer Carl Paladino.
First came a piece titled “Paladino’s eyesores” about two of Paladino’s downtown buildings that have racked up some code violations and some criticism. Then a piece called “Paladino campaign reneges on debts” in which former workers on Paladino’s gubernatorial campaign allege that the Republican candidate stiffed them on some wages and expenses. And then, this week, a piece titled “Paladino is lacking state OK for billboard.” In that piece, Heaney reports that the billboard on Paladino’s building at 199 Scott Street—which currently reads “Spineless Stan Lipsey & The Buffalo News threw WNY under the bus”—lacks necessary state permits.
Paladino has been after Lipsey, the Buffalo News publisher, for a long time, over a variety of issues. In the course of this recent spate of articles about him, Paladino has refused to offer comment to Heaney, instead issuing statements to his lengthy email list.
Last night, I spoke with Paladino; he called because he was unhappy with a piece in this week’s Artvoice about a meeting he and Erie County Executive Chris Collins had with David Bellavia, a candidate in the 26th Congressional District race. Mostly, though, he was frustrated that we had not picked up some stories he’d sent our way or published his responses to Heaney’s recent articles, so I agreed I’d do that today.
Maybe you’ve read these statements elsewhere. If not, here they come.
On March 11, Paladino directed this letter to Lipsey, copying the world:
You have no idea what it means to be fair and accurate. You already wrote your next dribble. You just want to say that I declined to comment. The community knows how you and your paper work. You live in a bubble. No one with half a brain in WNY cares what you write. You’re a stooge for the spineless Stan Lipsey. Crawl back under your rock and tell spineless it is time to go home to Nebraska.
Your paper has been an elitist and progressive bastion preying on WNY and holding it down. You earned $16 million last year. You endorse incompetents for public office and senseless policies. We have a shameful, dysfunctional education system graduating less than 50% [25% of black males], which is the root problem of most of our social ills, and your paper has supported its incompetent superintendent who the community abhors.
You chastised me with a ridiculous front-page article about two of our properties that aren’t pretty to some neighborhood busy bodies that are clueless about our intentions, actions and the realities of development. Read Business First and Buffalo Rising if you want to learn about balanced journalism in development.
You say nothing about the blight in our city. 10,000 derelict buildings are waiting for demolition at a cost of over $200 million and the City only has money to knock down 300 structures this year but nevertheless brags that they have $80 million in the bank to mollify and get rid of the control board. We have more buildings go into derelict condition than we take down each year. Take spineless with you on a tour of the East side. Show him what our city has come to look like on his watch.
When the casino started construction we demolished the entire interior of 199 Scott St., removed all the dilapidated windows and frames, hauled out 125 dumpsters of trash at significant cost and made the building safe and secure. We intended a hotel/residential project only to have your newspaper support casino opponents who together with a national recession caused the Seneca’s to shut the project down. Add to that your involvement in scaring Bass Pro out of town and the reason for the lack of development may become apparent to you. The two-year recession totally shut down the banks and nothing was being built. Did you notice that? You said it was a fire hazard. There is nothing left inside to burn. No, it was my sign on the building that was bothering spineless and he commissioned his favorite hatchet man to write a hit story about me. It’s called free speech. Funny how spineless can dish it out but can’t take it.
You lied about the Greystone. The building is and has been secure. I can’t control what happens on the sidewalk. We’ve had workers in the building doing careful and selective demolition for three months due to the nature of the building’s structure. You saw the dumpster. We are also suing the guy who sued us for damages he caused and we suffered as a result of his negligence in tearing down structural walls despite clear warnings. He brought the roof down on himself. He’s another brain surgeon.
You received a message on your blog from an unidentified, disaffected campaign malcontent who has no regard for truth or facts and you think you have a scoop. You don’t. There are people who didn’t get paid for good reason. Everyone who deserved to be paid was paid. They can go to court if they have a complaint. What business is it of yours? It’s a civil matter.
Remember if you write something and have actual knowledge that what you write is not true, it obviates the need to prove malice even for a public person. In any event I believe we can prove malice. I caution you to be careful. Don’t for a minute think that I won’t haul you into court and subpoena every e-mail and document you, spineless and Evans ever wrote about me. I can’t wait to depose the three of you. You better not destroy the records. Judges don’t like people who do that.
You sit in a big room with many people who don’t respect or like you or your fearless editor and publisher and they watch what you do. They are good people with integrity and honor and they want the best for their community. They don’t like elitism nor do they like editorializing on the front page. Truth is truth. Give it up Jim. You are a messed up dude.
Print this as my statement in response to your inquiry.
Paladino’s company, Ellicott Development, also responded with a plan for redevelopment of the two properties in question, as detailed in this Buffalo Rising piece.
On March 16, Paladino responded to the story about his campaign debts with this letter:
The March 12, 2011 the Buffalo News front-page headline story “Paladino campaign reneges on debts” was apparently more important to its spineless publisher, editor and reporter than the tragic nuclear meltdown in Japan. The unsubstantiated, libelous and defamatory lies and fabrications illustrating the malicious and hostile intent of the News will not go unanswered.
My campaign owes nothing to Michael Caputo or his band of parasitic malcontents against whom we have defenses, offsets or counterclaims. None were employees. All were independent contractors on nebulous oral agreements made without authority by Caputo. Their plan was to see what they could rip off before they get caught.
Michael Johns was retained to study and produce a get-out-the vote plan utilizing Tea Party volunteers. He conspired to change the terms of his oral contract and got caught. He was paid in advance over $18,000 for two months of services and expenses. His bill for $8,000 is more than offset by our claim for services and work product never rendered.
Caputo retained Tim Suereth, who we knew as Tim Smith, without authority for $12,000/mo as a driver and general utility person until I discovered that bills from a company named Sea Odessey were from him. We paid him $31,912.23 for two and one half months work. He only drove me 2 or 3 times before I recognized that he was reckless. His wife was our relentless scheduler/jack of all trades who did a great job for us. Suereth’s claim for expenses of $6,300 pales against our claim for amounts paid fraudulently including the cost of moving Caputo’s pleasure boat from Florida to Albany.
It’s the same basic story for the rest. People with legitimate campaign obligations were paid in full. The scam artists can sue us. The News is not our judge and jury.
The News let itself be used in what is obviously an attempt at blackmail.
My companies and I pay all our legitimate bills.
Then, on March 21, Paladino issued this statement, not long before Heaney’s piece on the billboard was published:
Stan, there is no evidence in the public domain to refute my assertion that Stan Lipsey is spineless. He hides behind sociopath Heaney who blindly bows to Stan’s elitist journalistic ideals.
Why haven’t you told your readers that your ace reporter Heaney has a severe personality defect having been discharged from a hockey coaching position for being abusive and demeaning to children? He is unstable.
Your refusal to print my rebuttal to the lies and fabrications of Heaney’s front-page headline article only confirms the warped predator nature of the News.
Of course I refused to be interviewed by Heaney. We know his game. He had already written his story and was only looking for a sound bite from me to legitimatize his slanderous and defaming diatribe.
Heaney lacks intellectual integrity. He is not capable of writing an unbiased, honest article. You’ve heard that from your own reporters over the last couple of weeks. No one respects him at the News.
You’ve compromised whatever values and standards you ever may have had Stan. You should be ashamed of yourself. On your watch our community has failed miserably. Have you no shame?
So, what do you think? Is Paladino’s beef with Lipsey and the News legitimate? What about his attacks on Heaney, some of whose previous work—for example, regarding the One Sunset scandal and the mayor’s office—Paladino has praised?