Investigative Post has reported that OTB has been the subject of numerous investigations and audits by federal authorities, the state comptroller’s office, the state attorney general’s office and the state gaming commission.
Investigative Post has published more than two dozen stories about OTB since 2018, detailing the improper award of high-end health insurance to its board members; extravagant spending on luxury boxes at Bills and Sabres games, as well as concerts and other sporting events; and a federal whistleblower lawsuit filed by former OTB chief executive officer Michael Nolan, who claimed he faced retaliation by Wojtaszek and ultimately was fired for cooperating with investigators looking into OTB’s practices.
Nolan’s lawsuit was dismissed as untimely last year. Nolan is appealing that dismissal.
Western Regional OTB was created by state lawmakers in 1973 to curb the black market hold on bookmaking and provide revenues to local governments. It is owned by 15 counties in western and central New York, plus the cities of Buffalo and Rochester. It operates betting parlors, betting kiosks in restaurants and bars, and a casino and harness racing track at Batavia Downs, which also includes a hotel and restaurant.
Each year OTB dispenses a portion of its profits to its government owners, divided based on population. Erie County, as the most populous government owner, receives the biggest cut.
Two weeks before the January board meeting, OTB reported it had enjoyed a “record breaking 2022” and would distribute $9.6 million in profits to the 17 governments that own the operation.
In 2021, OTB reported $5.8 million in profits, after tanking in 2020, when COVID shutdowns limited its distributions to member governments to $722,000.
Last summer, Erie County Comptroller Kevin Hardwick fired off a series of letters to Wojtaszek, asking the OTB chief to provide answers — and documents — explaining, among other matters, why OTB continued to provide health insurance to board members, despite numerous opinions that doing so was improper. Hardwick also asked for information about the construction and purchase of the hotel serving Batavia Downs.
At first Wojtaszek advised Hardwick to file a Freedom of Information request for the information he sought. (OTB has dragged its heels on satisfying such requests in the past.) Then, in an October person-to-person meeting, he assured Hardwick that he would provide the comptroller with the requested documents.
Apparently, he did not.
Last month, Hardwick sent Wojtaszek yet another letter, titled “Unanswered Questions Regarding WROTB Operations.”
Hardwick noted his inquiries began last July.
“Yet, four months later, some questions have received partial answers, while most went unanswered altogether. My office has engaged in repeated phone and email contact with you, without success,” Hardwick wrote.
In contrast to her uncle, Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) — a frequent critic of former Donald Trump — Republican National Committee Chair Ronna Romney McDaniel has been a strong supporter of the former president.
But in a biting op-ed published on September 20, the New York Times' Frank Bruni stresses that Trump has singled McDaniel out for abuse and humiliation. And Bruni doesn't have any sympathy for McDaniel, arguing that the RNC chair lacks her uncle's backbone.
Trump, Bruni observes, is not only skipping the second 2024 GOP primary debate — he is also insulting McDaniel by "competing with her debate" via "counterprogramming" in the form of a speech to striking United Auto Workers (UAW).
Bruni argues, "Here's one endeavor at which (Trump) really is peerless: Nobody dishes out humiliation in such heaping, merciless measures…. When Trump snubs you, he snubs you in neon."
McDaniel, Bruni adds, "richly deserves" her fate.
"Right after the 2020 presidential election," Bruni notes, "she was alternately squishy about and indulgent of Trump's bogus claims that it had been stolen…. How faithful she has been. How little it has netted her. She is being reduced to a laughingstock."
Read Frank Bruni's full New York Times opinion column at this link (subscription required).