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Former Cheektowaga councilman hired by Water Authority

A job with the Erie County Water Authority is on the horizon for a former Cheektowaga councilman who left office after being convicted of unemployment insurance fraud earlier this year.

Charlie Markel is scheduled to start Monday as a temporary water utility worker, which pays $45,260 annually, a spokesman for the agency said Monday.

“It’s not a civil service title,” said Brian A. Gould of e3communications, which handles public relations for the Water Authority. “He’s filling in right now for someone that’s on a leave of absence.”

Should an opening occur, Markel could be considered for permanent status, Gould said.

Markel is the latest politically connected hire at the authority, which has instituted new hiring policies in recent years to widen the pool of applicants beyond political circles.

The former councilman was midway through his second term when he left office in April, after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor charge related to unemployment insurance fraud. Under the Public Officers Law, once an elected official enters a guilty plea, the office is considered vacant because it involves a violation of the oath of office.

Markel was sentenced to a one-year conditional discharge and repaid $7,136 in benefits he received after the closure of the convenience store where he worked – but while still being paid $20,680 a year as a councilman. He didn’t make it past September’s primary election in his bid to return to office.

Markel, who has been working in construction, declined to comment Monday.

Meanwhile, former Erie County Legislator Terrence B. McCracken was reinstated last month as director of employee relations at the Water Authority, Gould confirmed.

McCracken had been fired within a couple of weeks of being appointed this past summer because it was believed he didn’t meet civil service requirements for the $96,934-a-year job.

“Following the termination, ECWA requested the Department of Personnel to review and provide an explanation of its decision. Based on its review and additional information provided by Mr. McCracken’s attorney, the Department of Personnel determined he does in fact meet the minimum qualifications for the position and may be appropriately appointed,” the Water Authority said in a statement.

email: jhabuda@buffnews.com