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Editorial: Water Authority must find another professional

It’s confusing and more than a little irritating. John Mye, a professional hired as the new executive director of the chronically mismanaged Erie County Water Authority, quit the $175,000-a-year job after just four days. The reason is mysterious – he said the job wasn’t a good fit and also cited unexpected personal considerations, but didn’t detail either.

Because of it, the Water Authority’s board has no choice but to go back to the work of recruiting a professional to run a critical operation. Nothing less will do.

It was a breakthrough early last month when the authority’s board announced that it had hired Mye, an actual professional with relevant experience, to be executive director. Typically, the board, which is appointed by politicians, hires the person that party bosses want, experience not necessary. For example, the most recent executive director was Earl Jann, a former pharmaceutical sales rep and town supervisor who was also, not coincidentally, a generous donor to Republican causes.

Under the old ways, the board operated in secret, even to the point of denying last year that it planned to hire Jann. Reams of bad publicity about the authority’s routine deceitfulness produced a scathing report by the state Authorities Budget Office, which censured the authority and called for all board members to be replaced.

Some were, and the new board moved quickly, firing the unqualified Jann and searching for a professional to take the reins. It found that person in Mye – or thought it did.

On paper, at least, the 66-year-old Mye looked about ideal. He is a licensed professional engineer and was vice president and chief financial officer for Ecology and Environment, an international environmental consulting firm in Lancaster. He served in that position for a decade before retiring last April.

His first day on the new job was Thursday and he quit on Monday, after taking Friday off. Thanks for that.

Mye denies he was subject to political pressure, which would have been common in previous times. But the change was so sudden that closer investigation is called for. A more forthright explanation by Mye would also be helpful, not to mention courteous.

Regardless, the board now must begin again, shaking the trees for new candidates and perhaps approaching prior ones, as well. Delivering safe, clean water to thousands of Erie County residents is work for experts, not sales reps or other pets of the two parties’ political bosses.

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