Former Erie County Water Authority executive director Philip J. Cook has filed a formal request for copies of financial records at the agency he once ran. It is an effort to fight what he termed a vendetta by authority managers.
The request, filed under provisions of the state's records access law, seeks "records relating to their false claims about former management practices." Cook made the request after the agency filed an interim financial management report requested by the Erie County Legislature.
Cook said charges repeatedly made while the authority grapples with major financial problems are "more than just a case of sore winners."
Meanwhile, Water Authority managers have been called to testify before an Erie County Legislature subcommittee next week, to elaborate on their interim report.
Legislator Gregory B. Olma, D-Buffalo, said executive director Robert A. Mendez and top staff members have been asked to appear at an energy and environment committee meeting at 1 p.m. Tuesday. "The rate-payers who foot the bill at the Water Authority deserve to know what is going on over there," the committee chairman said.
Top leadership at the regional water agency changed completely this spring and summer, as newly-appointed commissioners replaced several department heads in moves that led to the resignation of former chairman Joseph F. Crangle.
The new commissioners and top administrators have faulted agency bond re-funding efforts and past management for indebtedness that will consume an estimated quarter of the agency's budget by 1999.
Cook said that some reforms being claimed by the new leaders actually were planned during his tenure, including $2.3 million in budget cuts and stricter purchasing procedures. He also disputed claims that the Authority spent too much on travel, and denied what he termed "the absurd charge that some members of management traveled to gain credentials for future consulting."