BUFFALO, NY - Efforts are underway to force out the current operator of the Erie Basin Marina.
This comes a couple months after a city audit revealed Brand-On Services shorted the city in rent, by the tune of about $343,000.
The Erie Basin Marina is a place where thousands of people go each year. And it's also a place where city officials say that Brand-On Services has been ripping off taxpayers for many years.
"Brand-On Services owes the City of Buffalo an apology and they owe us $343,000, period," said Mark Schroeder, the city comptroller.
Since 2001, Brand-On has been the operator of the marina. And, by the end of the year, the company's agreement to run the slips, fuel operation and restaurant, for the city expires.
The company has made comments that it wants its contract with the city extended for two years. But, according to the Department of Public Works and the Comptroller's office, at least three separate offers to run the marina will be made public later this month.
So, the duties at the marina would be split and Brand-On could be pushed out.
"That would give legitimate vendors who know how to serve the public and how to run the marina, how to run a restaurant and a store," said Schroeder.
The proposals will go out, as the city and Brand-On negotiate how much the company should pay the city in back rent. A city audit released in September claims Brand-On shorted the city more than $343,000 in rent over a five-year period.
Brand-On says it would only agree to pay $27,412.
"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 think we owe them," said Mark Carney, the attorney for Brand-On Services.
The comptroller's office wants all the back rent paid and for the company to find answers as to how 20,000 gallons of fuel at the marina has gone missing.
"If they don't do that then they very well could find themselves in court because this office, the comptroller's office will not let this go," said Schroeder, who adds that the earliest the city can take action against Brand-On Services is one week from Friday, when a 30-day notice to repay the money expires.
The Comptroller's office also believes Brand-On broke the law and sent its information to county, state and federal prosecutors to review the matter. No one from Schroeder's office can say whether there's an investigation into Brand-On Services.
Approval of a marina operator in 2014 will need to be made by Common Council.