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State Audit to Show Huge Deficit, Cusack Declines to Seek Re-Election

By Joyce Kryszak

Buffalo, NY – A state audit of Erie County finances shows a deficit well above $100 million.

Sources in Albany tell the Buffalo News that the long-anticipated audit, expected to be made public next week, blames widespread financial mismanagement in county government.

The state figure is perhaps double the estimate of county executive Joel Giambra, and is also expected to exceed the $113.5 million deficit estimated by County Comptroller Nancy Naples.

Meanwhile, Elise Cusack became the sixth Erie County lawmaker to say she will not seek re-election. Speaking at her home in Amherst Tuesday, the legislature's 14th District representative cited frustration with county leadership in making her decision.

The announcement reverses another one made two weeks ago by the Amherst Republican. Cusack said then she would seek a third term and vowed to continue the fight to reform county government. The lawmaker, who is expecting her third child any day, says it was a tough decision, both personally and professionally.

"You go downtown and it's like walking into the past," said Cusack. "There are so few who are willing to even talk about new ideas, let alone embrace them. I just couldn't spend the next two years doing that."

Cusack says the turning point for her was a committee meeting of the whole held last Thursday, where nothing was resolved. She says a verbal spat earlier that day with County Executive Joel Giambra was not a factor in her decision. But she admits the incident perhaps did cross the line.

"You never like to see the human condition respond in that way," said Cusack.

There are others who also believe the County Executive has crossed the line. Denise Marshall, another anti-tax proponent on the legislature, says she won't back away from the fight. But she believes Giambra is making any progress tough.

"I think our biggest problem right now is the administration. And, unfortunately, we're dealing with this same administration for the next two and half years," said Marshall. "So, that does make it difficult."

So far, two Democrats, and four Republicans have decided not to seek re-election to the legislature. Erie County Republican Election Commissioner Ralph Mohr was among those who was there yesterday to support Cusack. Mohr says he hopes Giambra will heed the exodus of lawmakers and figure out a way to turn the county around. Or get out of the way.

"At this point I haven't seen any new ideas coming forth out of the sixteenth floor," said Mohr. "It probably would be in the best interest of the taxpayers of Erie County for him to step aside and allow the county to get out of its mess."

Cusack says she will back any candidate for her seat who will continue to fight for reform. She says that rules out Democratic candidate Tom Loughran.