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Erie County Water Authority Eliminates $65,000 P.R. Job | News

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Erie County Water Authority Eliminates $65,000 P.R. Job
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BUFFALO, N.Y.-- Two weeks ago, the newest commissioner at the Erie County Water Authority promised big changes were coming to the Authority, which has been a haven for political appointees for decades.

This week, those changes and the cutting of well-paid patronage jobs began.

The Erie County Water Authority has let go its $65,000 a year public relations person and eliminated the position.

His name is Brian Bray, and he came to the Authority from legislator Maria Whyte's office.

Scott Brown: "How unusual is it that at a place like the Water Authority, somebody actually loses their job?"

Political Analyst Mike Haselswerdt: "It certainly is unusual and sends a signal, it sends a signal that things might be done differently. Now whether the place will run better or not is a different question, but there's nothing wrong with shaking things up."

It should be noted however that the Authority is still paying a public relations firm $60,000 a year.

In a statement, the Water Authority's Executive Director, Bob Mendez, said:

"Outsourcing the services of the public affairs office will result in approximately $100,000 cost savings (per year including benefits) to our rate payers."

The Authority has three commissioners, and O'Donnell is the first in memory not to have been named to the position upon the recommendation of the county's Democratic or Republican party chairmen.

A few months ago, Democratic Chairman Len Lenihan wanted former Cheektowaga Supervisor Frank Swiatek reappointed to another three year term as commissioner.

But the county legislature rejected Lenihan's choice, and instead named O'Donnell instead.

And that means O'Donnell owes no allegiance to Lenihan or anyone Lenihan helped get a job at the Water Authority.

Mike Haselswerdt: "The chair is embattled, it doesn't seem like he's going to be replaced, but a lot of people don't want to pay attention to him. So things are changing in that regard, it shows a weakness for the chair."

A weakness that could result in the cutting of other patronage jobs in the future.

O'Donnell does have close ties to Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown, but he insists that he is committed to cutting jobs and salaries at the Water Authority, not adding to them.

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