BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — County officials bought an 80-inch television for nearly $5,000 with taxpayer money.
It's Sharp's top-of-the-line model with interactive capabilities and it will soon hang in the Erie County Executive's conference room.
"I physically got the bill from Best Buy. And I wanted to know why taxpayers are spending $4,000 on an 80-inch big screen television," said Erie County Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw.
Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz says the television will be part of a secure video conferencing system as a back-up for the Erie County Emergency Operation Center, which during Superstorm Sandy went offline for two hours.
"Because I know the media would be the first ones running out to my office and saying, 'Why didn't you have adequate backup in place in case the same thing happened as before,'" Poloncarz said.
But Mychajliw questions not just the need, but the way the TV was purchased.
The Building and Grounds Department bought the TV. The original estimate from Best Buy was more than $5,000, which according to county laws would require three quotes for an informal bid. But the purchaser then crossed off Best Buy's Geek Squad warranty to bring the total under the threshold.
It was labeled as a rush order and in addition, according to the Erie County Legislature, the purchase drained the Building and Grounds Department's account. The week after receiving Best Buy's quote, Poloncarz wrote legislators asking for an additional $15,000 - but he didn't specify it was for a television.
"They said they needed it for cleaning. For floor machines," said Erie County Legislator Lynne Dixon.
She thought they were granting money for keeping floors clean - not a TV.
"I do feel like the Legislature was misled," she said.
Poloncarz says he wasn't trying to mislead anyone. When asked whether he would have red-flagged the purchase while serving as comptroller, he said:
"I probably would have asked him what it's for, before I went out to the media."
Mychajliw says he's been working with purchasing department on this for more than a week now. He says he will more than likely approve the purchase after all the questions are answered.
Dixon says legislators deserve answers too, in order to restore some trust between them and the County Executive.
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