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Editorial: Mychajliw earns qualified endorsement to serve as a check on county executive

Editor’s note: This is another in a series of editorials endorsing candidates for a number of offices. These endorsements by The Buffalo News editorial board are intended to aid voters in their evaluations of those seeking office. Whether you agree or disagree with our recommendations, we urge you to vote and take part in our electoral process.

Stefan Mychajliw hasn’t been a particularly good comptroller for Erie County. Even by his own reckoning, the former television reporter came on too strong at times. He also ignored an obvious and troubling personal conflict of interest, vastly overstated the financial reporting error of a publicly funded organization and generally seemed as though he was in over his head.

Those are notable and even serious flaws in his performance, but it is also true that he has improved over the years. And as a Republican, he will likely do better than his opponent to serve as a check on the Democratic administration of Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz – just as Poloncarz was when he was comptroller and Republican Chris Collins was county executive. For those reasons, though not without some misgivings, we endorse Mychajliw for re-election.

It’s a close call, because his Democratic opponent is well qualified for the position of comptroller. Vanessa Glushefski is a certified public accountant and a lawyer. She has a professional demeanor, which suggests that she could quickly assume the responsibilities of the office.

She was oddly evasive at times in an interview with The News editorial board, but said that her goals included focusing on litigation costs arising from the Erie County Sheriff’s Department. She said that while she has met Poloncarz and found him to be “nice enough,” their Democratic Party connections wouldn’t stop her from “calling him out.”

We hope that’s true, should she be elected, but the range of traditional Democratic endorsements she has accrued suggest that she would come under significant pressure to toe the party line.

Mychajliw has to make improvements if he prevails. Early in his term, he accepted money from people and organizations that his office audits to fund his tuition at a professional development program at Harvard University. That he continues to deny the transparent conflict of interest is alarming.

In addition, the overly harsh way he criticized the Buffalo Urban League over an error in a financial report betrayed a lack of good judgment. The matter needed to be raised, but you don’t unload a bazooka to deal with a pesky fly. It was an over-the-top reaction that, once again, he continues to defend.

To his credit, Mychajliw called Poloncarz on the executive’s maneuver to wheedle money out of Erie County Medical Center. The scheme, which ultimately succeeded, lowered the hospital’s borrowing costs for necessary and expensive improvements, then took those savings for the county’s budgeting benefit.

That the hospital’s leaders went along with the trick does nothing to justify it. What is more, as Mychajliw observes, the hospital could use the money now that it is facing federal cuts in Medicaid payments. Not content just to be right, Mychajliw once again went gonzo by labeling the maneuver as “stealing from the poor.”

The check on Poloncarz is most important. Re-elect Mychajliw.

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