Former Tonawanda Town Justice John Flynn has gained the official backing of the Erie County Democratic Committee in his run for District Attorney.
At a briefing with reporters on Saturday morning, Flynn said a change is needed in the DA’s office to regain public trust and confidence.
“When I get in there, that’s the first thing I’m going to do,” proclaimed Flynn. “I’m going to instill the trust back in the office. I’m going to have relationships with the law enforcement. I’m going to talk to the police chiefs, I’m going to talk to the PBAs and the union members of the Buffalo Police Department and the suburban police departments. I’m going to work with the legal community to instill that trust back in that office.”
The Democratic committee is taking a new direction in supporting Flynn. The party had supported former DA Frank Sedita, III in his last two terms, but chose not to endorse his first deputy, Michael Flaherty. Flaherty is currently serving as acting DA.
Committee Chairman Jeremy Zellner said the Democrats were not happy with the way Sedita ran his office, and believe Flaherty, will continue his legacy.
“It’s hard for me to believe that things are going to change when you’re the first deputy and you’ve been there for seven and a half years, and now you’re up for election and telling the community all kinds of things that they’ve wanted to hear, that they’ve been frankly pounding on this district attorney for eight years,” said Zellner. “So it’s hard for us to believe that an election year epiphany is going to move this community forward, is going to move this district attorney’s office forward.”
Zellner said Sedita – who ran for his second term unopposed – was known for not prosecuting tough cases. He said the committee’s endorsement of Flynn shows an overwhelming amount of support from community leaders.
In the coming campaign, it’s possible that Flaherty will tout his ability and experience leading the DA’s office’s large legal team. Flynn presented his own resume of positions in private and public legal positions, civil service, and his both active and reserve military roles as proof of his own experience.
“I was assigned as the division officer aboard a U.S. naval warship and I was immediately thrown in charge – at the age of 23 – of 75 sailors and marines. That’s leadership right there,” said Flynn. “I have been blessed with numerous leadership positions in the United States Navy over the past 27 years.”
Looking ahead to the possibility of holding the DA’s position, Flynn said he would ensure that the public has a fair shot at future job openings under his administration by taking politics out of the hiring process. He said he wants to build a team that is more diverse, noting that of the 100 or so attorney’s currently on staff, only two are African-American.
“That’s unacceptable,” said Flynn. “We need to work with UB Law School, identify talented young African-American law students, bring them in as interns, bring them in as assistant district attorneys and mentor them for leadership positions in the office.”
Flynn offered assurances that under his leadership, the office will be a representation of the community. He said he aims to recruit the best and brightest to serve in his office.
With investigations and prosecution of police in bold view of the public over the past year, the question of a DA close relationship with law enforcement may come up in this race. Flynn said the current rapport between police and the DA’s office in Erie County could not be any worse.
“When you have police agencies across this county who are coming to me and begging me to run for election, they are begging for change, they are dying for new blood in that office, I would definitely dispute that there is a close relationship.”
Flynn said instances where police need to be investigated puts the DA’s office in a quandary. He said such a situation would be better served by bringing in the Attorney General or U.S. Attorney to investigate on a case-by-case basis.