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Democratic executive director to lose job with Republican-controlled Erie County Water Authority

The Erie County Water Authority Board will be looking for a new executive director in six months, presumably someone who is not a Democrat.

The authority board voted this month not to renew the contract for Robert F. Gaylord, a former banking administrator and Collins town council member who began work with the authority in November 2013. Gaylord earned an annual salary of $135,418 last year.

The Water Authority has long held the reputation of being a haven for political patronage, with a patronage jobs determined largely by which party controls the County Legislature. Gaylord, a Democrat active in Collins town politics, was hired when the County Legislature was Democrat controlled.

However, the Legislature majority is now controlled by a six-member coalition supported by the Republican Party.

Gaylord’s employment contract was set to expire this November. However, the authority board voted to extend Gaylord’s employment for another six months, until March 31. He will also be allowed to apply some of his unused sick time to cover the cost of his health care through the end of July, after which he will turn 65 and presumably be eligible for Medicare. He has waived the right to further employment termination benefits.

Between now and the end of March, Gaylord’s primary responsibility will be updating the authority’s Emergency Action Plan, said authority spokesman Sean Dwyer on behalf of Chairman Earl Jann. The last time the authority faced an emergency was in July when a major water main break in Amherst ultimately led to a boil-water advisory for hundreds of thousands of customers.

Jann declined to comment on the reason the board chose not to continue Gaylord’s employment beyond March, stating that this was a personnel matter.

Dwyer, the authority spokesman, said Gaylord was not authorized to speak with regarding regarding his employment. Under the current media policy, which has been tightened up in recent months, the only people authorized to speak for the authority are the secretary and the representatives of the Zeppelin Communications PR firm.

ECWA Secretary Joseph T. Burns, hired last year, is a former state Board of Elections official and close associate of Erie County Republican Chairman Nicholas A. Langworthy. Zeppelin Communications is run by Republican political strategist and public relations consultant Michael Caputo.


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