BUFFALO, N.Y. - The operator of the Erie Basin Marina is responding to criticism Tuesday that it failed to pay big bucks to the city in rent and other expenses.
A review by Buffalo comptroller Mark Schroeder released two weeks ago found that taxpayers have been shorted nearly $350,000.
Brand-On Services, through its attorney, says it has paid the city what it feels it owes them.
The company also said its been in full compliance with the lease it has with the city to run the marina.
Michael Wolasz is the operations director at Brand-On Services, which runs the Erie Basin Marina. Schroeder claims Wolasz's company withheld the money over a five-year period and that 20,000 gallons of fuel at the marina have gone missing.
"It's absolutely out of the ordinary, anytime 20,000 gallons of gas is completely missing and unaccounted for, I think that's pretty suspicious," said Pat Curry, spokesperson for the comptroller's office.
An agreement between the city and Brand-On says that the company is supposed to share revenue with the city on food and fuel sales. Until now, the company has been quiet on whether it will pay back the money or find the fuel in question.
"We have filed our year-end numbers on a timely basis each and every year and we've paid the city, pursuant to what we believe we owe them," said Mark Carney, the attorney for Brand-On Services, "there is no missing fuel."
Schroeder's report has been sent to Erie County District Attorney Frank Sedita, U.S. Attorney William Hochul and the state attorney general's office to look at whether there's been any criminal wrongdoing by Brand-On Services.
"Do I believe that there's any criminality involved in this? No. I believe that this is a lease dispute between city and its tenant," said Carney.
It turns out this is not the first dispute of this kind.
A city review of the marina in 2009 shows that Brand-On failed to give the city $31,000 in fuel sales and that there was a lack of accountability at the marina.
The finance committee of Buffalo Common Council was supposed to discuss the reported problems with the marina Tuesday.
But, discussion was delayed for two weeks so council members and Brand-On can review in full the 2009 review and Schroeder's recent audit.
Another meeting on the marina audit is set for Oct. 8 before the council's finance committee.
By year's end, council members will need to decide whether to extend a two-year contract with Brand-On Services to run the marina.
Brand-On says it wants to stay as the marina's operator.