Jerome D. Schad, who serves as counsel for the majority Democrats currently in control of the Erie County Legislature, is the likely pick to fill a vacancy on the Water Authority Board of Commissioners.
Democrats went into closed session to make their selection after interviewing 12 of the 14 candidates individually over three hours Monday. An official announcement of the Democrat’s pick could be revealed as early as today, according to Legislature Chairwoman Betty Jean Grant. She would not confirm the Democrats’ selection, however.
“We’re going to discuss the interviews by all the candidates. Then we’re going to lobby the legislators to see who their preference is,” Grant explained before retreating into the majority caucus.
The Buffalo Democrat said the candidate who receives at least four votes among the Democratic legislators will be the one that she will recommend to the full 11-member body for appointment to the Water Authority Board of Commissioners. Grant added that she would not be casting a vote, but merely make a recommendation based on the majority will of her Democratic colleagues in the Legislature.
Schad was one 12 candidates who appeared Monday before the Legislature’s Energy and Environment Committee to interview for the job in a public session that nearly everyone involved seemed to understand was more about form than process.
A couple of the candidates who took part openly mocked the process.
“I think it’s about time we stop giving these political hacks a job and put somebody on, like me,” said Joseph N. Weiss, a former Clarence Town Board member and professed entrepreneur, who waited with other candidates in a conference room before individually being brought before the legislative committee for their interviews.
“I tell the truth. I’m a straight shooter ... And, again, I can write a bigger check than anybody else in that room, if it’s needed to help either one of the political parties, if that’s part of the deal,” Weiss added.
Still, other candidates goaded lawmakers to flout long-standing convention and select a candidate based purely on merit, without regard to any political considerations.
“I understand that I’m not going to get this, but I’m here to show everybody my face, because you’re going to see this face around,” said Patricia E. Wolfsohn, a marketing manager from Buffalo who, along with Weiss, was making a second appearance before the committee since it last convened for an open job interview last April.
At that April hearing, Wolfsohn and Weiss were among the candidates passed over for the post in favor of Amherst attorney Christopher J. O’Brien, who was known as a benefactor to Democratic headquarters. Six months after his appointment, O’Brien resigned his three-year term as commissioner after deciding he did not have adequate time to devote to his duties on the board.
Schad, a 35-year private practice attorney who has served as majority counsel to the Legislature since January 2012, is expected to be appointed before the end of the year, after which the incoming Republican caucus will have the majority in the Legislature. Republicans in the Legislature are expected to go through the same process in April when the three-year term of Vice Chairman Earl L. Jann Jr., the lone Republican commissioner on the Water Authority board, expires.
Monday, Schad touted his legal background in products liability, and labor and worker safety issues, in his quest to succeed O’Brien on the board.
During his interview Monday, Schad was reminded by Legislature Majority Leader Thomas Mazur, D-Cheektowaga, that he was currently on the payroll of the Legislature.
“If you would be nominated as a commissioner, or appointed as a commissioner, would you sever ties with the Legislature?” Mazur asked.
“I don’t leave people in the lurch ever. So I don’t have any plans to stay on, but I serve at the will of the chair,” Shad said, in reference to Grant.
“The Legislature is in its immediate budget session. I wouldn’t just walk away if I were needed. So, if the chair said ‘I want you to stay on to help us through the end of the year,’ I would be happy to do that,” Schad added.