"The newspaper reader says: this party will ruin itself if it makes errorslike this. My higher politics says: a party which makes errors like this is alreadyfinished - it is no longer secure in its instincts. "
-from: "Twilight of the Idols" by
The break-up of the east side political
machine known as "the Polish Mafia"
has caused numerous members to scramble for cover. Due to "lt's exposes of this
bastion of ethnic politics, led by lame
duck Fillmore Councilmember David
Franczyk, both Franczyk and his aide
Andrew Golebiowski were soundly
defeated in their Democratic primary
Now, the sole survivor of the group's
triumvirate, Erie County Legislator
Gregory B. Olma (D-Buffalo), is facing a
tough re-election campaign.
Olma, who presides over the fifth legislative district, which consists of the old
Broadway-Fillmore area, parts of
Lovejoy, Schiller Park, Pine Ridge and
the Harlem-Genesee area, is desperately
trying to hang on to an office that he has
held for the last six years.
Olma handily won the last three elections, with the Franczyk machine in full
flower. Now he is facing the popular
mayor of Sloan, Ken Pokorski, virtually
alone. The machine has self-destructed.
It may have been a case of overreaching. Franczyk ran for council president;
his aide, Andrew Golebiowski, was all
set to take over his mentor's spot as
Fillmore councilmember: if all three had
won, the Polish Mafia would have, in
effect, advanced from its stronghold on
the east side to attain city-wide power.
The spread of the group's nefarious east
side policies came to an abrupt halt, however.
Franczyk chose to expose himself in
the media as a racist and was promptly
trounced by incumbent James Pitts, losing 61 percent to 39 percent on a primary day that saw a record number of
blacks go to the polls. Having no other
party endorsements, Franczyk will be out
of elected office come January 2000.
Golebiowski, who also lost the primary, was hurt badly in the Fillmore race by
the candidacy of another Polish-American, Steve Godzisz. Golebiowski
suffered from self-inflicted wounds as
well. A case brought against another
opponent, political neophyte Karen
Ellington, accused her of campaign
fraud. The suit was angrily thrown out of
court by State Supreme Court Justice
Frank A. Sedita, who was disgusted by
Golebiowski's dirty tactics.
With Golebiowski's loss to Ms.
Ellington (who is African-American),
maverick Steve Godzisz is perceived as
the last, best hope for a Polish councilmember to represent the Fillmore district; a Pole has held the seat for more
than four decades.
Prior to the primary, the Am-Pol Eagle
condemned Godzisz for what it termed,"the politics of destruction," saying that
he was a spoiler" who'd split the Polish
vote and allow the "African-American''to win.
Godzisz and Golebiowski did indeed
split 57 percent of the vote, while Karen
Ellington, the self-proclaimed "church-going" candidate sponsored by Arthur
Eve, won the primary with 43 percent, in
a very low-turnout primary that
observers say was split along racial lines.
In Fillmore, only 2,600 voters, fewer
than 30 percent of registered Democrats,
went to the polls to vote.
With Golebiowski out, Godzisz, who
has the Conservative, Independence and
Right to Life endorsements, continued
his candidacy and became an object of
interest to the Franczyk machine.
After the primary, Godzisz received a
call from Olma requesting Godzisz meet "with Olma and key members of the
Masiello administration." Godzisz
agreed to meet at Starbucks cafe on
Delaware Avenue and Chippewa Street.
When Godzisz arrived, he was sur-prised to find only Olma at the meeting.
Godzisz asked, "Where are Masiello's
Olma said, "It's just us. I represent
According to Godzisz, Olma offered a "ten-minute tirade," accusing Godzisz of
being in league with Arthur Eve to sabotage Golebiowski's and Franczyk's candidacies — in effect, to harm Polish candidates and help blacks.
Olma said that he might support
Godzisz, however, if he would preserve
some 31 jobs in various organizations,
continue to vote to fund certain programs, keep the current Fillmore
(Franczyk's) council staff, and vote for
the Council majority leader of Olma''s
choice. In return, Olma and his people
would create and deliver Godzisz's campaign literature, endorse him, and tell
white voters in the community that
Godzisz was the man to support.
Godzisz said that he refused.
A few days later, the men met again at
an Independence Party fund-raiser.
Olma approached Godzisz and said, "I'm
still trying to set up a meeting with key
people to help your campaign. I'm sure
we can work something out."
Shortly after, Godzisz said, he
received a call from a member of the East
Buffalo Democratic Club, a political club
that supports Franczyk and Olma,
proposing a luncheon meeting. At that
meeting, attended by club members/City
Hall employees Robert Sinkiewicz,
David Adamski, and Michael Cacciatore,
it was proposed that the club might support Godzisz and invited him to speak on
Wednesday, October 13.
In the meantime, Alt, on October 4,
published an update on the scandal-ridden housing program founded by Greg
Olma, called the East Buffalo
Community Ownership Project
(EBCOP). On October 9, The Buffalo
Criterion reported on it. The Buffalo
News also began an investigation, and
the Olma camp was drawing the interest
of numerous reporters.
Shortly afterward, Ricky Donovan,
councilmember-at-large candidate on the
Republican and Independence lines,
began his own investigation of EBCOP
and found that EBCOP had "squandered" $900,000, and EBCOP employees were Olma campaign operatives.
Donovan went to the Broadway
Market on Saturday, October 9, with a
petition calling for an investigation by
Buffalo's Common Council.
"I was outraged that Olma spent
$900,000 in taxpayer money without
establishing a homeowner in 12
years.'' Donovan said.
At the market, Donovan secured signatures and passed out fliers. Within minutes, Olma arrived and, shouting at
Donovan, drew close. Donovan warned
him to step back.
"Olma came on like a hothead" said
Drew Johnson, an eyewitness and resident of the Fillmore district. "He was
swearing, threatening the guy [Donovan]
and told him to leave the market. He
came close swearing.''f— you."'
"[Donovan] said, 'if you take another
step. I'm going to break your head open.' Olma stopped and [Donovan] started
calling people to see their county legislator."
According to witnesses, a crowd gathered.
Donovan explained, "I said, look,
here is Greg Olma, the guy that spent
$900,000 of our tax money for home
ownership and never got one homeowner.'"
Dominic Rogala, another eyewitness,
recounted what happened next. "An
elderly man with a cane said to Mr.
Olma, 'That's right; someone should
hold you accountable.'
"Mr. Olma said to the elderly man,
'Didn't I see you solicit a prostitute the
"At this, the old man lost his temper
and called him a liar. Then he raised his
cane over his head as if to strike Olma."
Donovan also lost his temper. "I told
Olma, if you don't leave now. I'm going
to remove you."
Olma then angrily left the market.
Meanwhile, the EBCOP story gained
On October 11, activists, led by Bill
Wilkins, distributed EBCOP fliers at
City Hall and in Olma's legislative district.
On Wednesday, October 13 , as scheduled, Godzisz went to the Adam
Mickiewicz library to address about 30
members of the East Buffalo Democratic
When Godzisz arrived, Russell
Pawlak, a club member, shouted that
Godzisz should not be there. Phil
Lowrey, another member said, "What's
that ugly, f—-ing son-of-a bitch doing
According to several club members
(who spoke on condition of anonymity),
when Godzisz rose to speak, Olma and
Franczyk stood up and Franczy was
According to Godzisz, Franczyk said, "you malicious mother-f—-er. You don't
give a damn about this area — you mother-f—-er."
"He called me a 'deranged, deformed,
degenerate, deviate.'''Godzisz said, "I
thought the veins in his head were going
to spurt blood; he was so angry."
Olma rose next to calumniate the
club's invited guest and accused Godzisz
of working against Olma by talking to
reporters about EBCOP and participating
in flier distribution.
Club Chairman Mike Cacciatore interrupted, saying, "let's get this meeting
back to order again."
Godzisz informed the group that he
was campaigning for the Fillmore seat.
"I won't make any promises of patronage." Godzisz said. "I'm looking to
rebuild the area. Anyone who wants to
help is more than welcome to join..."
Before Godzisz finished, Olma rose.
"You f—-ing hypocrite," he said.
Then Franczyk stood and he and Olma
took turns castigating Godzisz, who quietly sat down. "It's not the first time
I've seen fools," Godzisz said.
While Franczyk and Olma shouted,
Godzisz waited. Finally, Cacciatore.
struck the gavel down. "Let's move
on.''Cacciatore said, "This is getting us
nowhere. Let's hear from another candidate."
While Green Party council-at-large
hopeful Andy Goldstein spoke, Olma,
and Pawlak, both apparently agitated,
went to the back of the room, creating
As Sienkiewicz went to pacify Olma,
Godzisz, apprehending further outbursts,
left the club, and, with his departure, also
probably left the last hope of the club to
work as a force in the district.
The Franczyk machine today stands
shattered — a shambles of self-destruction. In its distress, the machine's true
colors spread upon a canvas, bleak and
gray. Like the remnants of its domain,
now lost to it, the east side of Buffalo, it
must start again. Perhaps its next ventures, severally, or together, may Find a
more fruitful field.
In the meantime, their last hope for
even a fraction of the power, respect, and
fear they once inspired, lies in Gregory
B. Olma, the foul-mouthed, the partisan
fighter, fighting as he alwavs has, desperately, to maintain himself and his
minions; at the public trough.