Tag Archives: patronage

Best and Brightest

17 Jan

Why so quiet?

That was fast. 

Just about a week ago, Erie County Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw hired a person named Jeff Bochiechio to be his new chief-of-staff. Mychajliw had famously pledged to hire only the “best and brightest” and specifically campaigned on a pledge to not just end, but root out, the “friends and family plan” of county hiring commonly referred to as patronage. 

Jeff Bochiechio may have been the best and brightest person to apply or submit a resume for the position of chief of staff – I don’t know. Frankly, I don’t think that it’s a bad thing for an elected official to surround himself with close friends and associates in some positions, because these are the people you know and trust to do a good job for you. Patronage isn’t always horrible. But compare: 

 So, Mr. Mychajliw has held himself to a higher standard, given his campaign pledges about eliminating patronage completely, which is why his former WGRZ colleagues so sharply questioned him on January 10th about this Bochiechio hire

According to Bochiechio’s resume and LinkedIn page, he began his career working for former Republican congressman Tom Reynolds, he was former County Executive Chris Collins chief fundraiser for three years, he says he ran Jane Corwin’s 2008 campaign for state assembly, and had a patronage position in Buffalo with Republicans in the state senate.

In defending his hiring of Boccheicio, Mychajliw points to the fact he’s a lawyer.

Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw: “My predecessors have hired a public relations person for that position of chief of staff where I have hired a public sector attorney with municipal experience and extensive experience e and state and local finance law and tax law and IDA law.” 

Scott Brown: “You say extensive experience, he worked for less than a year at a local law firm, he’s fresh out of law school where is his extensive experience?” 

Stefan Mychajliw: “In the same respect that Mark Poloncarz was a private sector attorney and served in the office of Erie County comptroller.”

Heh. Nice one, right? Except Mark Poloncarz was sworn in as a lawyer in 1998, and became Comptroller in 2006. That’s 8 years’ worth of experience doing corporate finance law at a big downtown firm; the comptroller should know that 8 is more than 1. Also – public sector attorney? Bochiechio’s LinkedIn page reveals only a brief stint with a private downtown firm. There is no evidence whatsoever of him having been a “public sector attorney”. 

But perhaps Bochiechio had special qualifications? For instance, he was a full-time law student at UB between 2008 – 2011, yet served as the New York State Senate’s “WNY Regional Director – Majority Operations” during his third year of law school.  According to SeeThroughNY, Bochiechio “earned” $49,154 in 2010, and a further $34,112 in 2011. That’s over $83,000 in taxpayer money for what is – if you’re also simultaneously attending law school – essentially a no-show job. 

Today, Bochiechio resigned abruptly as Channel 4 reported that he had pled guilty to DWI in Machias. He was arrested in October for blowing a .13 BAL – almost twice the legal limit. It’s unlikely that he’ll serve time in jail, but he will likely pay a fine, be on some sort of probation, have his license revoked for 6 months, and be required to have an ignition interlock device installed in his car. What kind of vetting took place to hire this young kid, about whom no one would be paying any attention if he was just working in the private sector? 

Scott Brown: “Most of his (Bochiechio’s) background in politics is as a fundraiser, will you used him to raise money for your campaign?” 

Stefan Mychajliw: “Certainly an option, I want to hired the best and brightest for this office and I also want to make sure that I have the best and brightest and most competent people when it comes to running for re-election this year.” 

Bochiechio’s position has a starting salary of $62,000 a year. 

This guy was hired because he’s got political experience running campaigns for Republicans, and because he’s well-connected. There’s nothing ostensibly wrong with that – indeed, it’d have been a smart hire, if he didn’t have the DWI. But when you make a big deal about rooting out patronage, you’re going to come under especial scrutiny about hiring friends, family, and the well-connected. This wasn’t just a hire violative of Mychajliw’s campaign pledge – it was poorly vetted, even for a patronage hack. 

Legislature Selects Jack O’Donnell as Erie County Water Commissioner

27 May

It is emblematic of a horrifically broken political system that an hours’ worth of political fighting and hatred stems from giving a do-nothing Erie County Water Authority patronage position paying about $20k as payback to political figures. John Elmore may be a phenomenal lawyer, but has no experience running – or qualifications to run – a water authority. Jack O’Donnell may be the best political consultant in the free world, but has no experience running – or qualifications to run -a water authority.

So, the Republicans, Lynne Dixon (IP) and “reform coalition” Democrats (Kennedy, Bove, Miller-Williams) promoted the name of O’Donnell, a Steve Pigeon associate, for the ECWA position at issue. John Elmore had been the choice of Grassroots, which is somewhat allied with Pigeon at this time. (The Democratic legislators who remain loyal to the county committee run by Len Lenihan had supported Frank Swiatek).

(Yes, in Erie County the Democrats have now split into three separate and distinct cliques. That’s a recipe for disaster not just for the party, but for the region as a whole.)

So, when the Republicans cut a deal with the three rogue Democrats to promote Jack O’Donnell to the water authority, the ECDC Democrats played a shrewd hand – nominating attorney John Elmore, the Grassroots candidate, at the last minute – after it was clear that Miller-Williams had jettisoned him to make a deal with Pigeon’s folks to ensure Independence Party endorsements for everybody in important races (Collins wins, Kennedy wins).

As Lynn Marinelli noted, not for nothing the County Executive’s chief of staff attended this particular legislative session. Deals had been made. Deals were being executed today. Political expediency, as usual in WNY, vanquished merit.

Betty Jean Grant entered Elmore’s name into consideration, and when Miller-Williams indicated that she would be supporting O’Donnell, Grant called Miller-Williams a “hypocrite” and indicated that the chairwoman was either lying before, (when she expressed support for Elmore in the paper), or was lying now.

With the clever outmaneuvering of Miller-Williams, I can’t think of a WNY politician being so quickly out-witted, or looking more foolish in recent memory. In the video below, Grant goes after Miller-Williams like I’ve seldom seen anyone go after a local politician before in an open forum.

Given the sudden … confusion … Maria Whyte recommended the matter be returned to committee to suss out who was for Elmore and who was for O’Donnell. This was defeated. The vote was taken, and the Republican minority voted for purely political reasons to support a Democratic associate of Steve Pigeon.

This is fantastic political theater.

This is depressing to anyone who cares about good government and smart policy.

The fun starts at 19:11

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Erie County Patronage Authority

21 Apr

Except for the fact that it’s always been thus – which seems to be the chief justification for just about anything in WNY – why is it that the Erie County Water Authority Board continues its existence as a patronage pit?

Aaron Saykin embarrasses everyone except Jack O’Donnell:

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The Reform Coalition's Unique Meritocracy

13 Jan

The Erie County Legislature’s so-called “reform coalition” today solidified its reformist bona fides with a very bold, reformist, non-patronage, wholly meritorious new hire.

Welcome to the staff of the Erie County Legislature, James Cerroni, Jr.

Mr. Cerroni most recently worked for David Pfaff, who is a longtime Steve Pigeon associate who is currently Director of Upstate Relations for embattled kleptocrat Pedro Espada, Jr., (D-Mamaroneck Bronx). Mr. Cerroni was Pfaff’s assistant as recently as late November 2009, earning $1441 every two weeks to do whatever it is (.pdf) that Pedro Espada and his counsel, Steve Pigeon, wanted him to do in Buffalo.

Sources say that Mr. Cerroni is registered to vote at Mr. Pigeon’s mother’s house, which is where Angela Irvin, the titular head of Pigeon’s “Citizens for Fiscal Integrity” PAC was also registered to vote. You’ll recall from that Artvoice article that CFI received a $20,000 donation from the Buffalo Niagara Partnership, and $11,000 from former County Executive Joel Giambra.

I heartily applaud the reform coalition for truly retaining the best and brightest of Western New York to do the people’s work at the Erie County Legislature. Obviously, the chances of real, fundamental reform grow daily.

Perhaps the county executive can rescind his decision to move county-run clinics to the non-profit sector locally, and instead cut to the chase and simply retain the services of Soundview Management Enterprises to run them, instead.

The Knesset of Erie County

13 Jan

Alan, Marc and Chris have done a great job recently of dissecting the varying layers of backroom deals, patronage jobs, party handouts, and general tomfoolery involved in starting the new session for the Erie County Legislature. Having only been back in town for the last 2 1/2 years, I need a primer occasionally myself. While it has not shocked (SHOCKED!) anyone who is paying attention, it has been bemoaned for focusing on party power, and not governance. Even Donn Esmonde got in the act today – while I generally dislike his viewpoints, you can’t argue with these choice quotes:

Politicians were—and are—too obsessed with wrestling the wheel out of one another’s hands to care about where the bus is going. Expecting them to change anything is like waiting for a toddler to cure cancer.

Chris declares this a coup, and compares it the Albany disaster this past summer. I think that’s the wrong analogy. Instead, I compare this to EVERY DAY in the Israeli Knesset.

For those that don’t follow Israeli politics, there are over 30 political parties active in national elections, and they range in policy position from the ultra-conservative to the ultra-liberal, in a spread far beyond the United State’s sweep. Unity governments are formed and reformed in Europe as well, but not with the frequency or sharp political elbows as in the Israeli Knesset. “Portfolios” (patronage jobs) are swapped, cut up, combined, and reformed regularly, usually with the same names (Sharon, Netanyahu, Barak) just playing musical chairs. Sound familiar yet? And in the end, the policies stay remarkably the same: let’s keep building settlements, lets dearm Hamas, and invade Gaza and fight Hezbollah in Lebanon if threatened.

Grassroots? ECDC? Reform NY? All factions fighting over a handful of jobs and less than $100M budget. Does anyone actually think the bills coming out of the Knesset County Legislature will be different because of who the Chairwoman is? Any bill right or left of the WNY political center rarely sees the light of day. There is much sound and fury over union handouts, but little changes. The Arts and Culturals get their couple million after rounds of golf. Taxes go up by 1% or 1.5%. And in the end, Collins does whatever he wants anyway. Albany is a Banana Republic. But Erie County is a shaky unity government built on jobs, deals, and family connections. In other words, politics. 

On a side note, I’d like to remind everyone that this is why local political parties are so useless. Is it not clear that this spasm has little to do with Republicans or Democrats? Alan goes through the list of players, and the relevance to party is minimal. And when the Republican County Executive buys the new Chairwoman’s position with $300K for The Colored Musicians Club on the East Side, clearly the suburb vs urb story is getting tired as well.

J-O-B

9 Jan

That’s what it was all about. All this talk of a coalition being built in order to bring about reform? It’s all about jobs. J-O-B-S JOBS. Who’s in and who’s out so far?

Out:

Kevin Hosey: Majority Communications Director: A person I consider to be one of the best and brightest people in local politics. I will sorely miss popping in his office from time to time to shoot the breeze, and I hope he lands somewhere good, lucrative, and quickly.
Jeremy Rosen: Former Bob Reynolds staffer: Senior Administrative Clerk
Rosemary Sullivan: Former Kathy Konst staffer: Senior Administrative Clerk
Michelle Novak: Senior Administrative Clerk
Cherrie Bagarozzo: Receptionist
Dorothy Furtney: Senior Policy Analyst
Don Pryzbl: P/T Budget Analyst
Patrick Sanders: P/T Budget Analyst

All of the above are Democrats. The sole departing Republican is Emily Trimper: Senior Administrative Clerk

Staying on:

Bobby Graber: Clerk of the Legislature. Gets to stay, but with a very significant pay cut.
John Calvin Davis: Chief of Staff: pay increase to $75,000 – he will make more than the Legislature’s Clerk, which is unprecedented. Associated with Grassroots.
Paul Henderson: Administrative Clerk, Grassroots member
James Gambino: Senior Administrative Clerk, Graber’s right-hand-man
Andy Kulyk: P/T Senior Administrative CLerk, hours reduced, not an ECDC sycophant

We don’t yet have the complete figures on how many Republican staffers are being added to the county payroll, but estimates are that four new jobs will be created, all around $40 – 75k, and the Republican Chief of Staff goes from the low $40k to almost $70k.

Brian Fiume will be that minority Chief of Staff, moving over from Collins’ office, where he served as the intergovernmental affairs officer. He gets a big raise in the move.

Scott Kroll stays on, getting a hefty raise to the mid-$50k range.

It’s also been reported that although the Republican legislators will be closing their useless and unused district offices, those offices’ staffers will stay on the county payroll, moving downtown.

The “Democrats” have added jobs as follows:

1. Sandy Rosenswie is the chairwoman of the Erie County Independence Party. She has Tony Orsini’s old job, and she had previously been on former Erie County Legislator Cindy Locklear’s payroll while Orsini was chair. This is the first time anyone knows of that a county party chair has also been on the county payroll. Rosenswie is, of course, a close family friend of Pigeon’s, as well as a political ally of his. Rosenswie was apparently brought in by Christina Bove.

2. Sheila Meegan is a West Seneca Councilmember who received unreported campaign funding from Steve Pigeon – donations that ultimately led to former A.D.A. Mark Sacha’s ouster because he made too much noise about it.

3. Rebecca Brooks was Barbara Miller-Williams’ district office staffer. She’s coming downtown full-time.

4. Diana Cihak was the local organizer of the Obama presidential campaign and headed up Citizen Action of NY’s local office. Was not on good terms with ECDC, so defected in 2009 to Maurice Garner’s Grassroots – Garner got Cihak this job.

No, I am not so naive as to believe that this is some sort of unprecedented turn of events – that good people lose their jobs and other people take them. What is glaring here is the fact that the incoming staffers are getting big bumps in pay over their predecessors’, and the ones “lucky” enough to hold over are, with a couple of exceptions, getting their pay and/or hours slashed. The idea that the county chair of the dirtiest piece of shit excuse for a political party gets a county job is mindbogglingly horrible. That is the very epitome of bad government, and anyone associated with this should be ashamed. The Independence Party, which is now controlled locally and statewide by Steve Pigeon’s maneuvering and Tom Golisano’s money, is a blight on politics in New York State. It is the same grouping of people that brings us such good-government luminaries as Pedro Espada and Hiram Monserrate – the downstate versions of Tim Kennedy, Barbara Miller-Williams, and Christina Bove.

So, I’ll let both Maria Whyte and Barbara Miller-Williams in on a new definition of “reform”, since they were both keen on defining that term on Thursday: reform in Erie County means finding jobs for your well-connected friends and giving them big-ass raises, and in some cases creating brand new jobs out of whole cloth.

I’m so happy that Chris Collins is also pleased to provide these people with their new, higher-paying positions, complete with dreaded legacy costs. Did Collins run on the raises-for-new-patronage-hires platform? If not, he should make that a centerpiece in his doomed-to-fail gubernatorial run, or maybe in his re-election bid to become County Executive again in 2011.

No one’s running county government like a business. Instead, Chris Collins and Steve Pigeon have taken to running county government like a feudal manor. And we’re the serfs whose labor helps pay for the high life the Lords and Vassals enjoy.

Olmsted Parks Conservancy FTW

11 Dec

As the City of Buffalo prepares to re-assume control over a notorious patronage pit maintenance of its city parks system, the contract whereby the Olmsted Parks Conservancy, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the maintenance and preservation of the city’s Olmsted Parks system is poised to expire.  The contract was with the county, after all.

The city, by the way, did not provide the Olmsted Parks with excellent service during the time it ran them.

The city does not seem to be interested in renewing the contract with the conservancy, and the reasons why are so familiar.  It’s all about power, jobs, and patronage. From the Buffalo News article:

talks with city officials have gone nowhere since Brown announced in September that the city would retake control of all its parks, playgrounds and recreation centers.

They’re trying to create an illusion that negotiations are going on. They aren’t,” [Conservancy Chairman David] Colligan said.

It seems to me that it’s far better for the city and region as a whole to have a dedicated not-for-profit group whose sole focus is the loving maintenance of the Olmsted Parks maintain those parks in the positive, successful, and beneficial way they’ve been doing for the past five years.  It’s time to take action and be heard.

From their website:

TAKE ACTION

In addition:

  • Call Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown at 851-4841
  • Tell him you want the city to negotiate a parks agreement with the Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy as soon as possible
  • Tell him that the work of the Conservancy is crucial to the resurgence of this city
  • Tell him that the Olmsted Parks Conservancy has a track record for success in parks management and fundraising
  • Tell him you want Clean and Green parks
  • Ask him why he would want to change a good thing.

Come out and show your support for Buffalo’s Olmsted Parks, this Sunday, December 13th. Bring your family and friends to Martin Luther King, Jr. Park at Fillmore and Best in Buffalo.

Meet by the MLK Jr., Monument at Noon.

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More information about why the conservancy’s contract should be renewed after the jump. Continue reading

New York State Senate Hires Pedro Espada

11 Aug

That’s right.  The Democratic majority in the New York State Senate has inexplicably and tone-deafidely hired Pedro G. Espada, son of the Bronx/Westchester Senator who flipped back and forth between the Democratic and Republican caucuses a few months ago.

Espada the younger will earn an astonishing $120,000 as “Deputy Director of Intergovernmental Relations”.

Why yes, it is a newly created position.

As this post at TAP suggests, I’d rather the Democrats were in the minority than handing six-figure patronage jobs to the sons of scumbags who can’t be bothered to file mandated financial disclosures. This is disgusting, and little more than evidence of what the payoff was to get Espada voting with the Democrats again.

Albany is the root of all evil and stupidity in New York State.  What we need is a unicameral, nonpartisan, part-time legislature under the Nebraska model.