Coming soon to a park near you: a deputy commissioner with no apparent qualifications for the job.
Former Erie County Legislator Gregory B. Olma has been hired as deputy county commissioner for parks and recreation not because of his skills or his passion or even his connections, but as compensation after filing a lawsuit. Kind of like winning it in a card game.
It may be par for the course in Erie County, as Democratic County Legislator Betty Jean Grant proclaimed it to be, but it’s depressing nonetheless.
Olma sued after being evicted from his job as a county grants administrator by then-County Executive Chris Collins, claiming the decision was political retribution. It’s Erie County, so that could be true. In any case, Olma reached a settlement with county officials, and as part of that settlement was given the $68,187-a-year job to compensate for the $58,573 job he lost, and which no longer exists.
It’s a situation where everybody is right and everything is wrong. Olma may well have been wrongfully terminated by Collins. Giving jobs to candidates without evident qualifications may be normal. But how in the world does anyone justify this to taxpayers who are stuck footing the bill because of spitefulness by politicians and the craziness of unhinged lawsuit settlements?
If this is a real job, then it should require some sort of expertise. If it’s a do-nothing patronage sinecure, then it should be eliminated.
This isn’t the first time Olma has sued and come out on top. He previously sued the county and the City of Buffalo after he was arrested and then cleared of charges that he made sexual and racial slurs against two elections inspectors in 2000. He won $25,000 from the county and $15,000 from the city to settle that case. His wife, Annette A. Juncewicz, also settled a 2003 lawsuit against the Erie County Water Authority alleging wrongful termination. The terms of that settlement were never released.
Whether he’s lawsuit-happy or not, Olma deserved compensation if he was wrongfully dismissed. But it is a stretch to claim – as a spokesman for County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz did – that Olma’s prior stint as chairman of the County Legislature’s Energy and Environment Committee somehow qualifies him to be deputy commissioner of parks and recreation. That’s a joke – and not a funny one.
But, then, it’s Erie County.