Brian Davis. Timothy Wanamaker.
They’re the ones who got indicted and convicted of criminal wrongdoing in connection with the One Sunset debacle a few years ago.
Sentenced to a year in jail yesterday by a federal judge, Davis argued for leniency by pointing to the bad press he’s received from the news media in town. You know – news reporting.
One Sunset was famously funded by the Buffalo Economic Renaissance Corporation, featured a friend of the mayor’s as owner, and failed spectacularly within about a year, leaving a trail of unpaid bills. Owner Leonard Stokes clearly had no clue how to run a successful restaurant/bar business, and suddenly Councilmember Brian Davis got caught paying the place’s rent, bouncing checks on landlord Kevin Brinkworth. It was all bizarre – Davis had never disclosed any interest in One Sunset in any disclosure.
One Sunset received $80,000 from BERC, $50,000 from the ECIDA, and $20,000 in community block grant money to fix up a facade that wasn’t bad to begin with. Jim Heaney, now running the Investigative Post, ran the story for the Buffalo News, and found that public money continued to be infused so the business could tread water – up to $160,000, $90,000 of which was unaccounted-for. $39,000 in inventory and furniture went missing. Mayor Brown? He set up the environment that led to One Sunset, and fired City Hall employee Michelle Barron for “managing” the place into the ground. She was just a scapegoat. As it turned out, Mayor Brown was closer to Stokes than he originally let on, and everyone at City Hall dummied up about everything.
Davis left office after it was discovered that he had diverted campaign cash to his own wallet, while this conviction was still under investigation. Make no mistake – Davis was a Grassroots protege of Mayor Brown’s. It got to the point where the satirical Buffalo Ruse published a “questionnaire” for prospective Davis replacements,
Question 2: What one fact about the One Sunset restaurant scandal convinced you that the whole thing was perpetrated by our shameful Mayor Byron Brown?
Question 3: if you were the FBI, what other guilty members of the Brown Administration would you investigate and why?
The whole thing blew up BERC itself, so that business development is now handled through the Buffalo Urban Development Corporation and the Buffalo Urban Renewal Agency. Timothy Wanamaker, the city’s former economic development chief, hasn’t yet agreed to spill everything he knows about the city’s involvement with One Sunset, but it’s an ongoing thing and I don’t think the book has been fully closed on the corruption that led to a quite literal theft of public money by elected and appointed government officials who owed a fiduciary duty to the public with respect to those funds.