When JPMorgan Chase announced they would cut 400 jobs from their mortgage center in Albion, it rubbed Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz the wrong way.
When he found out the global financial institution was hosting an event for 431 Western New York companies as they decided to close the facility, he signed into Twitter and let fly. His first Tweet caught a lot of people by surprise:
It isn't the norm for a senior elected official to react so swiftly and so negatively to the management decisions of a corporation. But with unemployment at 9.3 percent in Orleans County - where most of the workers at the Erie County-based JPMorgan office live - Poloncarz was on a roll.
When his criticism of JPMorgan hit the 'Net, it caught the attention of top Republicans. Erie County Republican chairman Nick Langworthy quickly challenged the County Executive to return a recent $1,000 donation from the bank. Within minutes, GOP Tweeters claimed to have researched up $3,160 in donations to Poloncarz during his political career.
Unfazed - and without replying to Langworthy's refund challenge - Poloncarz took a shot at US Rep. Chris Collins, who he defeated in 2011 in a contentious County Executive race. Collin's senior aide Chris Grant was quick to respond, unloading a healthy dollop of snark from his new Washington digs:
Again, there was no response from Poloncarz to the call for him to return donations from a company he now found deplorable. Today he told PoliticsNY.net that he won't return the money.
"I don't see why I would return donations from long ago for something they did today," he said. "I won't be seeking donations from them going forward." He also said his calls to JPMorgan officials have not been returned, which soured his opinion of the company even more.
"It is horrible to see anyone lose their job and I feel very badly for those who will be out of work. Any politician should look in their own campaign treasury before throwing stones about a company being a bad corporate citizen," Langworthy said. " Mark Poloncarz has received a series of very large donations from JPMorgan Chase. If he is as offended by their corporate decisions as he claims to be, then should refund the money or donate it charity."
"If Mark doesn't, he's simply a hypocrite," Langworthy said.
Poloncarz says he is not impressed by the criticism. "This is just another example of someone taking something quite serious and trying to make it political," he said.
Beneath the chorus calling for Poloncarz to return the JPMorgan loot, Republicans have long been critical of his unvarnished commentary on social media. According to the Buffalo News, the normally reserved County Executive lets his "Mark from Lackawanna" side loose online - much to the chagrin of his office:
"I know my staff hates it when I go on Facebook and Twitter," Poloncarz said. "But my goal - If I'm going to comment on something, I'm just going to tell it like it is."What bothers Poloncarz the most about the bad news was the timing - JPMorgan's annual "Buffalo Corporate Challenge" was in full swing. He suspects the timing was deliberate, giving the company 'cover' for the bad news.
After dozens of Tweets were swapped until late Thursday night, by Friday morning the exchange was the talk of Erie County political insiders. Unapologetic, Poloncarz took to Facebook to lay out his argument in the full light of day:
After sending a total of 5,100 Tweets to 2,300 followers, many would consider Poloncarz a Twitter veteran. But Erie County Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw - who is likely to challenge the County Executive's re-election - had a veiled word of advice this morning for his friend in County Hall. Fittingly, he posted it on Facebook and Twitter:
Judging from the comments he gets on his social media posts, there is widespread appreciation for Poloncarz's online candor. According to the Democrat Party Rule Book, Poloncarz is safe until he Tweets an underwear shot of his privates.
Then he can run for Mayor.