Tonawanda News

March 1, 2014

Comptroller guest at Ken-Ton Chamber luncheon

By Jessica Bagley jessica.bagley@tonawanda-news.com
The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — AMHERST — Erie County Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw highlighted a series of audits and reforms his office has spearheaded at a Ken-Ton Chamber of Commerce Luncheon on Friday.

Mychajliw, a former TV reporter, won a special election in 2012 and then earned a full, four-year term in the 2013 race.

“It was quite a shock — a cultural shock — to go from the private sector to the public sector,” he said.

Mychajliw said his first job was to complete an audit of his own office. Among other problems, Mychajliw discovered that he and many other county employees received free acupuncture and massage therapy — a cost that amounted to $1.4 million.

“I’m proud to say we eliminated that perk,” he said.

Completing the audit of his own office first allowed Mychajliw to then begin targeting other county departments, he said. He said is now completing a review of the Erie County Legislature.

“I won’t get into the details, but I can tell you that if they ever found this kind of waste in the private sector, it wouldn’t be tolerated for five minutes,” Mychajliw said. 

The comptroller’s office is also auditing healthcare prison costs and is evaluating whether prisoners should pay a copay for services. Salaries, special tax districts and the library system are also being reviewed.

“We are very concerned about maintaining our library system and want to make sure we are being cost efficient,” he said. 

Representatives from 43North also attended the luncheon Friday and presented information about their initiative, which promises cash prizes to applicants who enter their entrepreneurial ideas in a business competition. 

“It can be something that’s just on the back of a napkin, or it can already be bringing in revenue,” Andrew Pulkrabek, 43North executive director, said at the event. 

Prizes include a top award of $1 million, six $500,000 awards and four $250,000 prizes. The money will come from New York Power Authority proceeds. The winners will also receive free office space and must be willing to stay in the city for one year. One of the winners will already be located in Buffalo, Pulkrabek said. 

The competition is aimed at increasing private sector investment and job opportunities. 

“We are trying to shift perceptions of this region outside of the region,” he said. 

Entrants have until May 31 to submit their ideas and a judging panel will then evaluate the submissions. In September, semifinalists will present their plans via webinar, and then in October, finalists will attend a series of weeklong events in Buffalo.

The winners will be announced on Oct. 30.

Contact reporter Jessica Bagley at 693-1000 ext. 4150, or follow her on Twitter @JessicaLBagley.