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Buffalo School Board candidate turns down city job

A candidate for the Buffalo Board of Education’s Park District seat has turned down Mayor Byron W. Brown’s job offer and plans to file signature petitions to qualify for the ballot by Tuesday’s deadline.

Adrian F. Harris, who was offered a civil service job as a recreational aide Friday by the mayor, said the early evening work hours would have prevented him from serving on the School Board, which meets Wednesday evenings.

“I have invested way too much into this campaign to ever make a decision any other way,” Harris said. “The opportunity was great, but they waited six months to get back to me, and they never did.”

If he gathers enough signatures, Harris would compete against Buffalo developer and former GOP gubernatorial candidate Carl P. Paladino, who also is running for the Park District seat being vacated by Louis Petrucci.

Harris interviewed in October with the Parks Department after scoring highly on a civil service exam, and he said he was told someone would be following up in a matter of days. Instead, he wasn’t contacted until Wednesday, when a call came saying the mayor wanted to meet him Friday about the job.

Harris said he was discouraged from taking the position by what he considered a lack of professionalism in the job interview process, as well as the prospect of departing his current job as a teacher’s assistant in Lancaster High School in the middle of a semester, leaving students and faculty in the lurch.

Harris said the mayor, who makes the final decision on civil service jobs, offered him the position, which pays in the mid-$30,000s, but seemed surprised to learn he held a master’s degree in education.

“I would have thought if the mayor offered me a job he would know my credentials. Instead, he was kind of surprised,” Harris said.

In contrast, Harris said, his current employer “knew what my credentials were and what I brought to the job.”

“There wasn’t the level of professionalism I would have expected,” Harris said of the city’s interview process.

The timing of the job offer raised suspicions that it was the result of an alliance that appears to have formed between Brown and Paladino, who got the mayor’s support in February for a development project featuring a hotel, office space, apartments and restaurants near the Erie Basin Marina.

Michael DeGeorge, Brown’s spokesman, said Friday that nothing improper or out of the ordinary took place, noting that the mayor regularly meets “with all levels of employees.”

Harris, an electoral novice with no political affiliation, said he planned to deliver more than 1,000 petitions by Tuesday’s deadline. He said he has ordered 100 campaign signs and is ready to mount a campaign.

“I’m going out there and trying to win. I want to convince people I’m better at getting people together and working for the City of Buffalo and the students and parents to make this a better place for kids,” Harris said.