Two candidates, including an incumbent, have expressed interest in positions as Commissioners for the Erie County Water Authority. A local government watchdog group is urging Erie County Legislators to reopen the window of opportunity to apply, and be more open about the available positions.
On Thursday, February 28, the Erie County Legislature's Energy and Environment Committee are scheduled to interview candidates for the position of Commissioner.
Paul Wolf, president of the Buffalo Niagara Coalition for Open Government, says only two applicants are known: Peter Reese and Jerome Schad, the latter currently serving as a Commissioner. He tells WBFO he finds it hard to believe only two people would express an interest in a part-time job that pays $22,500 a year.
That is, he says, until you consider the conditions by which the application process was promoted.
"The complaint our organization has is that no one really knows that there's an opening at the Erie County Water Authority," he said. "Unfortunately, that seems to be how the politicians like things to work."
Wolf says there were no advertisements or postings for the opening in the Buffalo News nor on numerous popular job search websites such as Indeed, Monster, Buffaloniagara.org or even Craigslist. He notes that the Authority for years has held a reputation as a place where positions are filled under heavy political influence and patronage.
Last year, the Authority was harshly criticized in a state report which scrutinized its administrative practices. ECWA made several changes following that report, including personnel and public relations. Wolf was asked if he has noticed positive changes by the Authority.
"I think they have made some efforts to make changes at the Water Authority," he said. "But they take a huge step backward when we fill positions, again, without making an honest attempt to actually have non-political people apply."
One non-political person who did apply for a position and was ultimately hired lasted only one week on the job. H. John Mye III, who was hired as executive director, stepped down earlier this month citing "unforeseen personal matters."