Share this article

print logo

Effort to fire Water Authority chairman fails in Legislature

An Amherst lawyer got a seat on the Erie County Water Authority board Thursday.

And the board's chairman kept his.

The Erie County Legislature voted 10-1 to appoint former Amherst Town Attorney E. Thomas Jones to the board. Jones, a Republican, becomes the third Amherst lawyer to join the three-member board.

A follow-up effort by five legislators to fire Water Authority Chairman Jerome Schad failed by one vote.

Jones' answers last week during his lengthy interview before the Legislature were well-received by both Republicans and Democrats, lawmakers said. Jones said he supports all of the recommendations made by the state's Authorities Budget Office to improve transparency and accountability. He will replace former Republican commissioner Karl Simmeth, who retired from the board.

Legislator Patrick Burke, D-Buffalo, opposed Jones' appointment, calling it a partisan, Republican pick and not part of a larger effort to reform the authority. He previously said he would not support any appointee. Majority Leader Joseph Lorigo, C-West Seneca, responded by saying Burke was abdicating his role to reform the authority by not participating in most of the interviews for commissioner last week.

Legislators Thomas Loughran, D-Amherst, and Lorigo then pushed to have Schad fired.

"This is our time to reform a system that everybody knows is corrupt," Loughran said.

"There's been a lot of talk in this body over the past several months about reform of the water authority," Lorigo said. "We do need to make changes there, and the best way to do that is with a clean slate of commissioners."

Legislator Kevin Hardwick, R-City of Tonawanda, cast the swing vote that prevented Loughran and the Republican-supported minority from bringing the measure to the floor.

Hardwick said he opposed firing Schad because that would open up the Legislature and taxpayers to a costly and pointless lawsuit. Schad's term is up in April. He said he's been of that opinion ever since he received a legal opinion from the county attorney, which was supported by the Authorities Budget Office.

"The only ones who would win are the lawyers here," he said.

Lorigo said Hardwick had previously given him his commitment to supporting the resolution to terminate Schad and accused Hardwick of cutting a political deal with Democrats and "tap dancing" around questions about his vote after the meeting. Hardwick said he had no extended conversations with the Legislature's Democratic leadership on the matter and has no intention of supporting Schad's reappointment.

Loughran and Lorigo recalled Hardwick's remarks from last month, when he joined in the call for Schad's resignation. At that time, Hardwick said the scathing report by the Authorities Budget Office made only one request of the Legislature, to remove Schad, and Hardwick supported it.

Story topics:

There are no comments - be the first to comment