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Governor Distances Himself from Erie County Financial Consulting Firm

By Eileen Buckley

Buffalo, NY – The high price of the consultant group hired by New York State to assist Erie County's control board continues to raise questions. And now some lawmakers are also questioning the company's ties to Governor George Pataki.

The PFM Group was hired through a no-bid contract to serve the county's control board. The contract deal totals $860,000. So far, the company has assisted County Executive Joel Giambra in his draft of a four year financial plan at a cost of $300 per hour. Some lawmakers are outraged at the price because taxpayers are footing the bill, and the county remains in dire financial troubles.

Then last week, a report surfaced that PFM made political contributions to Governor Pataki and State Republicans. Some question if Pataki influenced the hiring of PFM. While in Buffalo Monday Pataki told reporters there was only reason the company was selected. He says it was the same financial firm that helped Nassau County through its fiscal crisis.

"I have no idea who PFM is, other than they did a very sound professional job in Nassau County," Pataki said. "And the professionals in Erie County thought they needed them to do this in a timely manner and professional manner."

County Executive Giambra says he believes the financial consultant firm is worth the money it charges. He says it is up to the control board to continue to monitor the cost of the PFM.

"I really don't know if they have blown through the money and how much was allocated," Giambra said. "That is something the control board has to account for. They were hired by the state. The control board monitors their contract. I can't tell you if they've used up all the money or not. But I can tell you they were very helpful in the process here in Erie County."

PFM's bill for just August totals $364,000. But that doesn't include costs for travel and lodging.