DA's office looking into Water Authority report as 'second set of eyes'

Jun 13, 2018

Although a report blasting the Erie County Water Authority suggests no criminal violations were committed, Erie County District Attorney John Flynn has instructed his Special Investigations Bureau to take its own look as a "second set of eyes."

The New York State Authorities Budget Office, upon releasing a report Tuesday, censured the Water Authority and recommended the removal of all commissioners who were serving during the period of the ABO's review of ECWA's operations.

Erie County District Attorney John Flynn speaking Wednesday about the New York State Authorities Budget Office report blasting the Erie County Water Authority for its operational practices.
Credit Michael Mroziak, WBFO

Among the ABO's complaints were a lack of adequate transparency. The Water Authority, as the ABO stated in its report, "would be best served by new leadership that is more cognizant of its responsibilities, appropriately performs its board duties, implements and enforces its policies, and fosters an environment of transparency."

Flynn told reporters Wednesday he had reviewed the report and then forwarded it to his Special Investigations Bureau, asking them to conduct its own review.

He indicated that based on conversations between his office and the ABO, there were civil violations committed but no criminal violations. 

There are concerns, though, about what the Budget Office stated was the Water Authority's unwillingness to fully cooperate in the request for information bu refusing to provide certain documents requested for the review.

According to the ABO, "board members are not meeting their fiduciary duty and have failed to act independently and with the duty of loyalty and care to the organization required by Public Authorities Law."

Flynn was asked if his office's own investigation might be a strategy to ensure the Water Authority doesn't dispose of any documents.

"That's tangentially an offshoot of what I'm trying to do," he replied. "What I'm trying to do here is ensure that there's no violation of a criminal statute. That's my main goal."

The Budget Office, in its censure of the Water Authority, found that "board members routinely approve resolutions and transactions without having adequate information upon which to base their decisions."

Two commissioners who served during the time of the review, Karl Sinnet and Bob Anderson, have since left the Water Authority board. Jerome Schad remains on the board. Erie County Legislators Joseph Lorigo and Thomas Loughran on Tuesday issued a joint statement calling for Schad's immediate resignation, suggesting "we need to hit the reset button."