Saying he wants to change what he sees as a culture of corruption and overspending in the office, former Assistant District Attorney Mark Sacha has his sights set on becoming Erie County’s top legal watchdog.
While announcing his Democratic candidacy for DA in Niagara Square Friday morning, Sacha took several shots at his fellow candidates. He focused, in particular, on Acting District Attorney Michael Flaherty.
Sacha said he feels a responsibility to reform the office and repair damage that he believes has been done over the past decade. He cited the special investigation surrounding former Erie County Democratic Committee Chair Steven Pigeon as one example of public corruption he believes is connected to the DA’s office.
"The reason why I know that is because I attempted, while as an Assistant District Attorney, to obtain justice for the people of Erie County by having the people who were responsible for the corruption brought to justice,” Sacha said.
Sacha said the political operatives who are the subject of the Pigeon investigation had control over the DA’s office and still do. He also said Flaherty is using the power of incumbency, as well as public funds, to create a career for himself. Over the past seven months, Flaherty’s office has released nearly 90 press releases regarding major to minor crimes.
"All he’s doing is reporting everything that happens at the DA’s office with the hope that the repeated use of his name and the repeated press conferences are going to get him elected. And there’s nothing that, I think, the public is gaining from that,” Sacha said.
In a written statement, Flaherty defended his position, saying that the best way he knows how to campaign for the office of District Attorney is to do the best he can at his job. He goes on to say he will continue the work to restore public trust in government by holding corrupt politicians accountable.
The county's last district attorney, Frank Sedita III, is now a State Supreme Court justice.
Sacha, who is seeking the endorsement of the Working Families and Green parties, says he has more experience and credibility than the four other candidates running on both sides of the political aisle. He and Flaherty are both running on the Democratic party line along with former ADA John Flynn. Flynn has received the party’s endorsement.
Attorney Mark Arcara is running on the Republican line, while Attorney Joseph Treanor is running as a Conservative.
“I assure you, I will not be a prosecutor conflicted by politics. I will be an experienced prosecutor who makes the right decision which is to do it on the basis of whether or not justice calls for it,” Sacha said.
Flynn issued a statement Friday, saying "Voters are not interested in the insider bickering and finger pointing between Mark Sacha and Mike Flaherty." He goes on to say "I am the only candidate who has no ties to the failed Sedita/Flaherty years."
Sacha says he has done a study that shows cases have gone down almost 50% during Flaherty’s administration and that of his predecessor Frank Sedita, while the budget has gone up by 50%. Sacha says he would look at slimming the office’s budget by hundreds of thousands of dollars.