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Comptroller candidates don't need college degree

Wanted: Chief fiscal watchdog to monitor finances in the second-largest city in the state. Applicant will control divisions that perform audits, borrow millions of dollars a year and help protect Buffalo's credit rating on Wall Street.

Salary: $88,412. Excellent benefits.

No college degree required. High school diploma will suffice.

The Common Council is launching a drive to find an acting comptroller following Andrew A. SanFilippo's recent departure to become a deputy state comptroller.

Under the City Charter, applicants are eligible if they have a high school diploma, have lived in the city for the past year and belong to the political party of the previous comptroller. SanFilippo is a Democrat.

While some city officials say it is too late to change the rules "midstream" in the process, there is a move afoot to possibly tighten requirements in the future. North Council Member Joseph Golombek Jr. confirmed Friday that he has been working on a proposed law with city attorneys.

"There should definitely be some type of required four-year [college] degree if you're the comptroller, although I don't think it necessarily has to be a degree in accounting, finance or math," Golombek said.

The City Clerk's Office has sent out a notice indicating that applicants will have until April 25 to submit resumes and letters requesting appointment as interim comptroller.

Thus far, the only candidate who has confirmed that he will seek the temporary appointment is Darryl McPherson, the city's chief fiscal auditor. McPherson has been an attorney for 18 years, previously serving as chief legal adviser to Buffalo's control board. As Buffalo's auditor, he oversaw a probe into problems in the Human Resources Department. The ensuing controversy ultimately led to the dismissal of Human Resources Commissioner Karla L. Thomas.

McPherson is not ruling out a possible run for a full four-year term. He acknowledged Friday that his 2009 guilty plea to drunken-driving charge could become an issue. A judge suspended his license for a year, fined him $1,500 and ordered him to continue counseling for his third drinking-and-driving offense in nine years. McPherson was convicted of driving while impaired in 2000 and 2007.

"I acknowledge it was a mistake on my part. But I don't want that to be what defines me for the rest of my life," McPherson told The Buffalo News. "Too often, good people choose not to serve in public office because of perceived skeletons in their closets."

Several others have indicated that they haven't ruled out applying for the temporary appointment, running for a full term, or both. They include Common Council chief of staff James Pajak, who served as the city's chief accountant for a decade and as city auditor for nearly two years. City Treasurer Michael Seaman and Erie County Legislature Majority Leader Maria Whyte also indicated that they are weighing their options.

The city will advertise the vacancy on its website and on public-access television. Candidates should send resumes to the City Clerk, 1308 City Hall, Buffalo, NY 14202.

e-mail: bmeyer@buffnews.com

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