OTB slow-walking information requests

The obfuscation of the Western Regional Off Track Betting Corp. was on full display Tuesday night when its president, Henry Wojtaszek, spoke at a meeting of the Niagara County Legislature.

Wojtaszek had been asked by lawmakers to address several issues, including his refusal to release the names of those provided tickets and Sabres and Bills tickets purchased by the OTB. Former State Senator George Maziarz has charged that OTB employees and board members are improperly helping themselves to tickets. Wojtaszek insisted that the tickets are given out to high rollers at the OTB’s casino at Batavia Downs, but he has refused to release the names of recipients. He reiterated his position Tuesday.

During the meeting, Legislator Dennis Virtuoso asked Wojtaszek whether the OTB has provided an unnamed press outlet with information it has requested regarding the use of cars and cell phones issued to OTB managers under the state Freedom of Information Law. Wojtaszek said it had. 

In fact, it has not. Investigative Post and the Niagara Gazette filed similar requests weeks ago and neither had received the documents at the time of Tuesday’s meeting. Investigative Post Editor Jim Heaney challenged Wojtaszek outside the meeting room; Wojtaszek responded by returning to legislative chambers telling lawmakers that Investigative Post had not been provided documents, but the Gazette had, even though the Gazette’s reporter told him the exact opposite think just minutes before.

The Gazette reported Wednesday that the OTB delivered the requested documents about 11 p.m. the night before, after the conclusion of the meeting.

The Legislature concluded its meeting by voting down two resolutions sponsored by Virtuoso, a Democrat who represents Niagara Falls. One would have directed the county attorney to prepare a lawsuit in an effort to obtain the names of ticket recipients. The other requested the state comptroller conduct a full audit of the OTB.

The vote was along party lines, with Republicans voting against both measures. Of note: Wojtaszek is the former chairman of the Niagara County Republican Party.