The political patronage pit is filling up again.
This time, the beneficiaries are a couple of former politicians, one who just lost his seat in the last election and another who sacrificed hers in an attempt to secure the top job at City Hall.
Thanks to the party higher-ups who provide taxpayer-paid safety nets, both have landed jobs at the Erie County Board of Elections.
This is wrong.
Former Erie County Legislator Ted B. Morton, R-Cheektowaga, just started work earlier this month as a full-time election clerk. He lost his re-election bid in November. He served two terms on the County Legislature.
Morton landed a full-time position paying about $40,000. Republican Elections Commissioner Ralph M. Mohr described how the transaction occurred: “I knew he was looking for a job. It was kind of a mutual thing,” he was quoted in The News.
Right. Just a coincidence.
The election clerk position Morton assumed was vacant because of a retirement. The Republican Elections Commissioner saw in Morton someone who could communicate and also work with town political committees who recommend elections inspectors to the board.
But questions have already arisen over giving Morton jurisdiction over such matters. He is a financial planner who “ran afoul of industry rules by borrowing about $315,000 from seven of his clients between 2009 and 2012.” He was fined and suspended for six months by the Financial Industry Regulatory Agency in 2013. And he was fired as a contractor with LPL Financial.
None of that should necessarily disqualify him for the election clerk position. But the obvious patronage should. This is a bipartisan problem.
Former Legislator Betty Jean Grant, D-Buffalo, will start part-time work next month engaged in voter outreach. She “retired” from the Legislature at the end of last year in a long shot bid to unseat Buffalo Mayor Byron W. Brown. She lost.
But Grant needed two more years to get 20 years in the New York State pension system. As first reported a few weeks ago, she was offered a job at the Board of Elections to get her through to that last taxpayer-funded mile. Board of Elections Commissioner Jeremy J. Zellner cited Grant’s expertise and her role in the community as a leader.
It is certainly true that Grant has been a strong community advocate. But Zellner’s comments have to be measured against his dual roles: Not only does he work for as a commissioner on the Board of Elections, but he is also head of the county Democratic Party.
None of this bothers either political party. If it isn’t the Board of Elections, then it is the Erie County Water Authority. The authority has long been a dumping ground for the unqualified and politically connected who collect fat salaries on the backs of ratepayers.
In a county that cared about professionalism in public service, this would stop. Sadly, there is little reason to think it will.