State senator, former state senator plead not guilty to felony election law violations
BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) - State Senator Robert Ortt and former State Senator George Maziarz pleaded not guilty Thursday to felony election law violations, in connection to political campaign donations.
Ortt currently holds the 62nd District seat that Maziarz held for years. The district includes parts of Monroe County and all of Orleans County.
The indictments follow an investigation by the State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman into Senator Ortt, Maziarz, and former Niagara County Republican Chairman Henry Wojtaszek.
A spokesperson for Ortt confirms the Senator has been indicted on three felony counts of offering a false instrument for filing. Maziarz was indicted on five felony counts of offering a false instrument for filing.
According to court papers filed Wednesday, Maziarz secretly funneled money from his own campaign committee, The Committee to Elect Maziarz State Senate, and also from the Niagara County Republican Committee, to pay off a former senate staffer who had left government service amid charges of sexual harassment. The two committees paid the former government staff member $49,000 in 2012 and $46,000 in 2013-2014, court filings show.
To conceal these payments and avoid public scrutiny, Maziarz allegedly lied about the expenditures on five separate filings with the New York State Board of Elections.
In addition, the indictment alleges that Ortt created a scheme to make up for a $5,000 pay cut when he went from being town clerk/treasurer to being mayor of North Tonawanda. According to court papers, Ortt set up a job for his wife in which she performed no actual work. From 2010 to 2014, she received approximately $21,500.
Ortt issued a statement on Wednesday evening, in which he accused Schneiderman of pursuing a political agenda.
"One thing is clear: the only reason I am included in this is to make their case politically appealing. As multiple news organizations have documented, Eric Schneiderman has been obsessed with using his political office to persecute his political enemies and protect his political allies," Ortt said.
Bozek says Ortt will fight the charges.
Wojtaszek pleaded guilty Wednesday in Albany to a misdemeanor election law violation relating to campaign filings that were made in 2012-2013.
The campaign filings involved the labeling of contributions that were paid to subcontractors, he said.
He said the criminal offense did not require fingerprinting or a mugshot to be taken.
Brown added that Wojtaszek is likely to receive a fine for the activity.
“Campaign finance disclosure ensures New Yorkers have confidence that their elected officials are serving them honestly and with transparency," said Risa Sugarman, Chief Enforcement Counsel for the New York State Board of Elections. “The public has the right to know how their representatives spend the contributions they receive and that the disclosures are honest and accurate."
The State Board of Elections referred the case to the Office of the Attorney General.
If convicted, Maziarz and Ortt each face up to one and one-third to four years in prison on each count.