IDA chairman won’t discuss resignation

Chris Johnston, chairman of the Erie County Industrial Development Agency, has dug in his heels in the face of questions regarding his suspension and resignation from his private sector job.

Johnston rejected a request from John Mills, chairman of the Erie County Legislature, to appear Wednesday before the Government Affairs Committee to answer questions about his departure last month from the World Trade Center of Buffalo Niagara. Johnston was suspended in late March in the midst of an internal review of trade center finances. He resigned in early April.

Johnston told Mills in a letter that he would only answer questions in private, but lawmakers said more transparency is required because of his high-profile post with the ECIDA.

Legislator Kevin Hardwick said the circumstances of Johnston’s departure raise both questions and concerns. But Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said Republicans in the Legislature are trying to make political hay over what he terms a “minor” matter and that Johnston should not be required to answer questions because he is an appointed, not elected official.

The ECIDA is scheduled to elect officers next Wednesday and a nominating committee headed by Poloncarz has recommended that Johnston remain on as chairman.