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Lancaster trustee defends vote to hire close friend

The Village of Lancaster’s new special-events coordinator is a close friend of one of the trustees who voted to hire her.

Trustee William C. Schroeder lives in the same house as Dawn Gaczewski, travels with her and acknowledges their close relationship but believes he did nothing wrong in voting – on two separate occasions – to appoint Gaczewski to the part-time position.

“I voted for her because I think she can do the job,” Schroeder said in an interview.

While Gaczewski would have gotten enough votes even without Schroeder’s, at least one trustee believes Schroeder should have declined to vote on Gaczewski’s new job. It will pay her $10,000 per year plus 25 percent in commissions she earns from any new event sponsorship money she brings to the village.

“I think he should have recused himself for the vote, knowing her as a personal friend,” Russell W. Sugg said.

Gaczewski was hired to replace Jennie E. Smith, whose three-year contract as special events coordinator expired at the end of last year.

Village officials waited for months after Smith announced her intention to leave the job before advertising the position.

Smith continued to fill in after her contract expired and was paid $3,279 by the village for this extra work.

Gaczewski was among 23 people who applied for the position and among 14 who were interviewed by trustees.

Board members initially sought to split the duties of the special-events coordinator, and trustees on April 8 voted to hire Gaczewski and Mary Jo Monnin for the dual position.

At the work session preceding the vote, a Buffalo News reporter asked the five board members if any of them has a personal connection to the coordinator candidates. Schroeder acknowledged Gaczewski was a “friend.”

Schroeder then went on to vote for her appointment.

Schroeder and Gaczewski, who are each divorced, said in separate interviews that Schroeder rents a room in Gaczewski’s home because his house remains unlivable. Both said they aren’t dating.

Schroeder said that he and Gaczewski, and her children, are traveling with two friends to Las Vegas soon but that it is not a romantic getaway.

At the April 22 meeting, the board voted 4-1 to appoint Gaczewski as the sole special-events coordinator after Monnin, who works as a sports reporter for The News, informed the board she didn’t get her employer’s permission to take the post. Trustee Kenneth L. O’Brien III voted no.

Schroeder said he didn’t believe his personal ties to Gaczewski required him to recuse himself from either or both of the board votes.

Gaczewski said Schroeder doesn’t benefit financially from her hiring, and she emphasized how small Lancaster is.

“I also know the other trustees. They don’t live in my house, but they have families that go way back in the village,” she said.

Other officials have declined to vote when they have an employment connection to a resolution.

For example, when the board voted April 22 to accept the site plan for a project at the AVOX Systems campus, Mayor Paul M. Maute abstained because he works at AVOX.

Sugg, the only member of the Village Board who isn’t a member of the Citizens Party, said trustees should recuse themselves from voting in cases where they have a personal or financial connection.

He said he believes Gaczewski and Monnin were the two most-qualified candidates for the special-events position, and he is not objecting to Gaczewski’s appointment.

But he said he was disappointed that so many of the 23 candidates had ties to village officials and he would like to see future job openings advertised longer to reach a wider pool.

“They were all friends and relatives, or friends of friends,” Sugg said.


Correction: The Village Board voted 4-1 to appoint Dawn Gaczewski as special events coordinator at its April 22 meeting, with Trustee Kenneth L. O’Brien III voting no. An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated the vote was unanimous.