Monday Mailbag Where You Ask Questions and I Pontificate By Peter Livingston

I receive literally several emails each week, commenting on items posted by me on Rather than respond to each of them individually, which I am far too lazy to do, I have decided to publish excerpts from some of the letters and respond to them here. I will not disclose the name of the author of the email, because many people may have the same comment.


Peter: I agree with your post regarding the Erie County Executive's office awarding a legal contract to campaign donor Cantor, Lukasik. Have you requested an explanation from the County Attorney? Perhaps filing a Freedom of Information Law request might be the way to go.

Thank you for your suggestion. I have not reached out to the County Attorney or filed a FOIL request. I did notice on the Erie County Legislature website that Legislators Dixon, Rath and Lorigo penned a letter to Erie County Legislature Government Affairs Committee Chairman Thomas Mazur requesting a representative of the County Executive to attend a meeting and explain the decision to hire the Cantor, Lukasik, Dolce & Panepinto firm. I sent an email to the authors of the letter to get an update.

Unfortunately, the item was "received and filed" without discussion by the County Legislature majority. It sounds as if some in the legislature wish this issue would go away quietly. However, Legislator Joseph Lorigo informed me that he intends to submit another letter and will continue to ask questions until they are answered. In other words, he will not allow this issue to go away quietly. Thank you Legislator Lorigo!

Peter: I don't know if you are aware, but Marc Panepinto, the Panepinto in Cantor, Lukasik, Dolce & Panepinto, was convicted of elections law misdemeanors and had his law license suspended.

Thank you for the information. I was aware. I am not particularly bothered by it though. He paid a price for his actions, and his debt to society is paid. People can change.

What does bother me is that there is no indication that his firm is the best qualified to represent Erie County in a matter such as this. Combined with the considerable donations given to County Executive Mark Poloncarz and the Democratic Party, I think that serious questions need to be answered as to why this particular firm was chosen.

Your email does remind me that Mr. Panepinto ran for New York State Senate last year. Given his past, and the ethical charges that seem to attach themselves to members of that the State Legislature, perhaps he was better suited for that position than Mr. Grisanti.

I remain concerned about this issue. Given the speed with which a letter requesting more information was "received and filed," it appears to me that these concerns are well founded. Are Democrat legislators trying to protect Mr. Poloncarz? Are they shielding their Party Chairman and Chief of Staff Jeremy Zellner? Are they trying to avoid potential embarrassment for Mr. Panepinto's wife, Judge Catherine Nugent Panepinto? I don't know. But I do know this issue will linger until questions are answered.


Peter: I know that you don't support it, but why not base political contribution limits on income taxes paid? I bet that if we did, a flat tax would suddenly be given serious consideration.

I do not support it, but your prediction gives me pause. Tempting as it is, I have an idealist worldview that good ideas should be supported because they are right, not because they are political pawns.

That said, a debate on the flat tax would certainly return Herman Cain to relevance. I enjoyed his ability to discuss issues and I miss his truly bizarre online campaign commercials. I would enjoy the Republicans being referred to the party of "Nein! Nein! Nein!"

Of course, there would also be a discussion of the flat tax. But that's a topic for another day.

Comments? Please email me at I also comment on Twitter @PRLivingston.

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