Aug 21


If Henry Wojtaszek was Pinocchio

OTB chief spins his way through an interview with WGRZ. Other recommended reading includes a study that underscores just how much Republicans and Democrats loathe each other.

Here’s the latest recommended reading – and this week, viewing – from Jim Heaney. Subscribe to his Sunday email newsletter and you’ll get the news a day earlier, along with a recap of Investigative Post’s reporting from the previous week.

Updated: 12:22 p.m.

Henry Wojtaszek, the embattled CEO of the embattled Western Regional Off-Track Betting Corp., took the unusual step of answering questions from a reporter last week. He appeared Wednesday on WGRZ’s 5:30 p.m. newscast. Michael Wooten asked the right questions and Wojtaszek, well, let’s just say if he was Pinocchio, his nose would have been very long by the end of the interview.

Wooten pressed Wojtaszek on OTB’s continued practice of providing gold-plated health insurance for its very part-time board members. Wojtaszek’s response: the legality is in question due to conflicting legal opinions, and board members work very hard. In fact, both the state comptroller and attorney general have told OTB the health insurance is a no-no. Several years back OTB sought a legal opinion from a private law firm. Those lawyers told OTB the same thing: ditch the perks. As for Wojtaszek’s claim of hard-working board members, most appear to put in very few hours and the board as a whole is little more than a rubber stamp for its CEO.

Perhaps Wojtaszek’s bigger whopper was his claim that OTB operates in a transparent manner. In reality, OTB routinely refuses interview requests and slow walks requests made under the state Freedom of Information Law.

Sometimes, it takes a lawsuit to kick the information free: former state Sen. George Maziarz had to sue to obtain records he requested under the FOI Law. Of late, Wojtaszek told Erie County Comptroller Kevin Hardwick to buzz off when he posed questions and requested documents regarding OTB operations.

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The Washington Post published an eye-opening story last week that declared that “By mid-century, nearly two-thirds of Americans will experience perilous heat waves, with some regions in the South expected to endure more than 70 consecutive days over 100 degrees.” You can look up projected temperatures by Zip Code. I looked up Buffalo: In 30 years, we’re projected to have two, maybe three days of 100 degree-plus temps. Which reinforces the notion, which I wrote about a while back, that climate change provides Western New York an opportunity to rebound – in a big way – if we get our act together. The Guardian also reported on the study. (No paywall.)

I know a lot of you are book readers. The New York Times published an insider’s look at the publishing industry, based on an anti-trust lawsuit. Did you know, for example, very few books sell more than 5,000 copies?

I subscribe to a handful of magazines, and two terrific issues arrived in the mail over the past week. The Atlantic published an infuriating – and heart breaking – investigation into the cruelties visited upon families crossing the southern border during the Trump years. Meanwhile, the entire issue of Mother Jones is a must read. It takes a deep dive on the Republican Party. Skip the website and buy a print copy.

It’s not news that Democrats and Republican’s don’t like each other. But a new study by the Pew Research Center details the depth of the loathing in stark terms. For example, nearly three-quarters of Republicans consider Democrats to be dishonest and immoral. Nearly two-thirds of Democrats feel the same way about those in the GOP.

Two Russian soldiers have come clean about the immoral nature of their country’s invasion of Ukraine. Read about their accounts here and here.

I love YouTube. Just the other day I watched a clip from the Howard Stern show in which Dave Grohl and Pat Smear said they still jam in private on occasion with Krist Novoselic and play Nirvana tunes. Oh, to be a fly on that wall.