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Channel 4 looks at dollars spent for PR by Shelby, Ridgeway

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 15 May 2014 at 12:00 am

The towns of Shelby and Ridgeway were part of investigative piece by Channel 4 News in Buffalo today that looked at taxpayer dollars being spent for public relations.

The two towns hired Andina Barone of Mindful Media Group to fight the effort to dissolve the village of Medina and shift some of those village services and tax burdens to the two towns. A dissolution plan sees a 46 percent increase in town taxes in Ridgeway and 10 percent in Shelby.

The towns have each spent about $3,000 for communication consulting, establishment of 24-hour call line, March print media buy, “Town messaging and dissemination,” art supervision, 5,000 stickers and 5,000 cards, according to a documents obtained by Channel 4.

A big crowd turned out last week at a public meeting about the dissolution plan, and most speakers opposed the plan.

“When each taxpayer is going to see a possible 46 percent increase in their taxes, the town has to spend resources in order to protect its taxpayers and they believed at the time that it was a prudent use of resources,” Emilio Colaiacovo, an attorney for the towns, told Channel 4.

The nearly $6,000 cost to Mindful Media Group doesn’t include the printing and mailing costs for at least three town-wide mailers about the dissolution. One mailer accused Medina Mayor Andrew Meier of mismanaging village finances. Another mailer faulted the Orleans Hub for being “unethical.”

The Channel 4 report highlights that Barone is the daughter of Gabrielle Barone, vice president of the Orleans Economic Development Agency. She is also an influential member of the Republican Party.

Colaiacovo said there is no conflict of interest with the towns hiring the younger Barone, who also does work for the EDA.

“The person you’re speaking of is an employee of the IDA. She has no vote. She has no say. She reports to the CEO of the IDA, so she can tell the CEO everything she would want him to say, he ultimately has the final say on IDA decisions along with its board,” Colaiacovo said.

Channel 4 also noted other public entities that pay for PR, including the Niagara Falls Water Board, Erie County Water Authority and the Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority.