A Democratic state legislator from Buffalo, where a white supremacist massacred 10 Black people in a Tops supermarket earlier this month, is accused by three of his former top staffers of firing them rather than taking their advice to go through with a speech condemning racism. The legislator, Pat Burke, serves in the New York State Assembly repping District 142, which includes parts of the southeastern Buffalo suburbs, including Orchard Park, where the NFL’s Buffalo Bills play.
The New York Post and other outlets reported that Burke was slated to give a strong condemnation of white supremacy on the floor of the Assembly early last week but then changed his mind. Not only that, but he then fired them last Tuesday, the staffers said, after they argued that he needed to go ahead with the speech. The Post identified the three staffers as Matthew Dearing, who had been Burke’s director of community relations, Nicole Golias, the former legislative director and Brendan Keany. Together, their positions represent a triumvirate of the most important roles on any legislative team. Dearing is Black.
The staffers were quoted as saying that they thought Burke’s statement about white supremacy was extra important because his district has a reputation for being racist. New York’s 142nd Assembly District includes 130,261 people but only abou5 5% of them are Black, according to 2022 data from the state. The 141st district, which includes the part of Buffalo where the massacre occurred, has about 1,500 fewer residents but is about 58.6% Black.
From the New York Post
“We tried to say, ‘Hey, man, you know, we live in this part of Buffalo that people regard as being racist, and we know we have an extremism and a racism problem here in Erie County, and we feel that … as an office, we got to call this out,’” recalled Matthew Dearing, who was Burke’s director of community relations.
“He said, ‘No’ — stick to the program!’ ”
Dearing also said Burke made it clear he didn’t want to risk losing his Assembly seat by taking a stance against white supremacy.
“He proceeded to tell us in no uncertain terms that we were not going to be doing anything substantial about this issue,” Dearing recalled. “He told us and I quote, ‘I’m not giving up my seat for this issue.’”
Ex-legislative director Nicole Golias recalled Burke making “fun of” a push by Assemblywoman Monica Wallace (D-Lancaster) to form a commission to combat white supremacy.
“He made fun of another assemblywoman who was proposing … a commission on rooting out white supremacy and was saying like, ‘Oh, that’s gonna be like, futile or hokey,’” Golias said.
Burke told the Buffalo News that he fired the three for “gross insubordination” after an argument where they called him a coward over his stance...which kinda jibes with their account, does it not?
From the Buffalo News
The dismissals, Burke said, occurred after he had just driven back from Albany one day after he joined with members of the Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Legislative Caucus in the State Capitol to speak out against white supremacy.
Married to a woman of color, Burke, who represents the 142nd District, said he is the father of three racially mixed children and that over his 10 years in public service he has repeatedly spoken out against racism.
“One of the workers called my family ‘lily-white,’ in spite of knowing that I have a mixed-race family. I’m married to a woman who is Puerto Rican and we have three mixed-race children,” Burke said of a comment made by Matthew T.H. Dearing, who had served as Burke’s director of community relations.
Burke has Tweeted condemnations of the shooting, including a post that linked to a video of a May 17 speech in which, surrounded by a multi-racial group of people wearing orange ribbons, specifically called out white supremacy and linked the shooter’s actions to a legacy that went back to former Republican strategist Lee Atwater and still thrives in the rhetoric of Fox News host Tucker Carlson.
“White supremacy, right wing extremism are entering our institutions, our governmental institutions all across this nation and if you don’t think it’s happening in the state, it’s happening in our state, too,” he said.
As a state legislator, Burke makes $110,000 per year.