Buffalo Urban League files notice of claim over comptroller's critical report

Mar 8, 2016

The Buffalo Urban League has filed a notice of claim against Erie County Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw over what the group calls "an improperly conducted and fatally flawed report" that has caused harm to the organization.

Surrounded by dozens of supporters outside BUL's downtown office Tuesday, Urban League President Brenda McDuffie called on Mychajliw to correct the public record. McDuffie says the comptroller characterized his recent report as an audit and says Mychajliw suggested finding evidence of fraud.

Buffalo Urban League President Brenda McDuffie outlined her group's legal notice against Erie County Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw.
Credit Chris Caya/WBFO News

"The review found a one-time billing mistake that was self-reported by the Buffalo Urban League, not any evidence of fraud and the mention of fraud is nowhere found in the report," said McDuffie.

McDuffie says the comptroller's "exaggerated claims" have caused damage and harm to the group.

"It is unconscionable that he would use the power of his office to produce a report and then make public statements that are not aligned with his report. We want the record corrected," McDuffie said.

The Urban League's Article 78 filing asks the court "to recognize the Comptroller's report failed to meet" professional accounting standards. Urban League Vice Chairman James Pitts says the 87-year-old organization is not going to be "taken down under false pretenses" and he says the board is "solidly behind" McDuffie.

"We want the comptroller to back off. We want him to take this down and we want him to restore the reputation of the League, because the League has come through the darkest ages of Jim Crow and we've never faced this kind of situation and we're not going to let it go by without fighting," Pitts said.

McDuffie says Mychajliw should withdraw his report and his comments to the media. But Mychajliw tells WBFO he stands by the report and will not withdraw it.

"I stand very firmly behind the facts of our review and I will not back down just because someone doesn't like it. There are no sacred cows within Erie County government," Mychajliw said.

"We did not initiate this review. This review came into existence because seven Urban League employees were extremely concerned with how taxpayer dollars were being managed under the agency's watch," he added.

Mychajliw says he finds it unfortunate that the League is spending its resources on attorneys, rather than programs for the working poor. He also questioned what he calls a "cozy" relationship between McDuffie and Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz, his sometimes political rival.

The matter is now in the hands of the comptroller's office's legal department.