NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. - For years, we've been covering the patronage that exists at the Erie County Water Authority, a place known for giving jobs to the politically connected.
Now, it appears similar problems exist in Niagara Falls, where members of the water board are divided over some perceived conflict of interest issues involving the board's chair.
The chair of the water board is Ted Janese, one of three Republicans on the board. A week ago, Janese was the deciding vote to approve the husband of a Niagara County Legislator to the board. The problem for some people is that the legislator is also a Republican and that Janese also works for the county.
Critics of Janese say he had no business doing what he did a week ago, when he approved someone to fill the job of director of administrative services within the water board. The person who got hired is the husband of Republican Kathryn Lance, a Niagara County Legislator. Janese himself also carries a county job as an assistant attorney.
Two On Your Side's Jeff Preval took a look into how some lawmakers, across the aisle feel about the issue.
"I think the big problem we have here is that Mr. Janese is also the county attorney," said Sam Fruscione, chairman of the Niagara Falls City Council, "He should've abstained being that he does work for the county legislature and the water board."
Renae Kimble, a Democrat on the water board and former Niagara County Legislator said, "I know how the game works, and operates, so you cannot tell me that it's not a conflict of interest, it is."
Democrats on the water board were furious that Janese had voted anyway. They said there were more qualified candidates, who also requested more reasonable pay. Some board members called the move an example of appointing a "political hack." Janese says he was relying on the advise of the board's attorney.
"Obviously if he thought it was a conflict, I wouldn't have voted on it, I would've abstained, it's his opinion, which is my opinion that it's not a conflict," said Janese.
Fruscione responded by saying, "We definitely disagree, here in the city council, if anybody has any types of connection we automatically abstain."
2 On Your Side reached out to Legislator Lance for an on camera interview, which she declined. During a phone conversation with us she said she's pleased with the water board's decision and that her husband went through a fair interview process. She says her husband is an Army veteran who retired in June.
Still, some members of the water board think there was a violation and have taken the issue to the state and city ethics boards. On Wednesday, the city council got involved by voting to demand that Janese resign from the board.
Janese says he won't make a decision on whether to resign or not until hearing from the board's attorney again.