Lenihan to Step Down, Again
by Buck Quigley - posted 2:05 pm, July 17, 2012
For the second time in about a year, Erie County Democratic Chairman Leonard R. Lenihan is announcing his decision to step down from the position he has held for a decade. Click here for the story in the Buffalo News. “We ushered in a new era of professionalism, putting a priority on ethics, fiscal discipline and technological innovation,” he claims.
Now the talk among political observers is all about who will fill his shoes.
Here’s a tip to the Erie County Democratic Party: Why not choose a chairman whose first response to a simple inquiry from a reporter is to tell the truth—not fabricate an elaborate story that ultimately won’t match up to the facts? That kind of behavior creates a negative story where none originally existed. Yet that’s exactly the strategy employed by Lenihan and county Democratic election commissioner Dennis Ward when I asked about getting updated voter information a month ago.
I was seeking the information based on complaints I was hearing from candidates wanting to run for various zone chairs against incumbents, but who were unable to get useful data from the Board of Elections. Such information would be used to go out and collect signatures in the redrawn districts. On Friday, June 8, I was told by the BOE that the information wasn’t complete, and couldn’t be given out—only to learn later that it had already been given to the Democratic party and had been converted into walk sheets and handed out to incumbents a day before my inquiry. I paid $40 for a bunch of info that I didn’t even receive until several days after my request. And, it turns out, I wasn’t alone.
At the time, Lenihan said: “There is no conspiracy here. This is simply getting stuff done when we can. The difference is, we’re asking for it as it got done. It wasn’t a matter of us trying to hoard information or anything like that.” Ward told me the Democrats had filed FOIL requests for everything they received.
To test this, I decided to file a FOIL requesting to see all the Freedom of Information requests made to the Erie county BOE dating back to May 1. Two weeks later, I received a letter saying that my request was being granted.
I went down to inspect the files and found that, dating back to May 1, there had been 38 FOIL requests made with BOE. None of them were from the Erie County Democrats, and none had been granted any earlier than my original request for materials. So how did that voter information—information that was not made available to this reporter nor to 37 others who’d requested it—make it into the party’s hands early in order to put together the lists that were distributed to their incumbents ahead of time on June 7?
Calls to Lenihan and Ward asking for an explanation as to how this could have happened were not returned.
By all appearances, this little saga is an example of the lengths to which the EC Dems will go to cover up the fact that they received privileged information from the BOE without so much as filing a FOIL request. Thirty-seven other schmucks besides myself were unable to get similar treatment, even after filling out the paperwork and paying the BOE for the same materials. The manufactured delay gave incumbent Democrats a week head-start to collect signatures on petitions.
Yet before I checked out the story by FOILing the FOILs, the outgoing Democratic chairman told me, “It wasn’t a matter of us trying to hoard information or anything like that.”
So, Lenihan says he’s stepping down again. Believe it…or not?