Former Lackawanna Mayor Norm Polanski
LACKAWANNA, N.Y. - Another well-known Western New York politician has joined the payroll at a public authority.
On Saturday morning, former Lackawanna Mayor Norm Polanski was approved to take the reigns of the Lackawanna Municipal Housing Authority. And considering his salary as mayor, he's in line for a big raise.
"I have the qualifications for the job," Polanski said, "because somebody has been involved in the community and been in the community, all of a sudden it's patronage, no, it's the most qualified individual for the job that applied for it."
Polanski spent eight years as Lackawanna's mayor. As he was leaving office a little more than a year ago, he tried to land the job of executive director at the housing authority.
"Well, yes, I did and to be honest with you, if you go elsewhere and other housing authorities you're going to find out that HUD didn't enforce that one year waiting period, but here in Lackawanna they did, I have no qualms with it," he said.
HUD is the federal agency that oversees public housing.
The one-year waiting period is up, and coincidentally the executive director job at the authority also is opening up.
Polanski told 2 On Your Side he expected to get the job.
Polanski was unanimously approved by the board of commissioners of the authority, many of whom were appointed by Polanski when he was mayor.
One board member, David Hardy, voted reluctantly saying that Polanksi neglected tenants as mayor. Polanski says he'll put tenants first, which is the big concern of many.
"I'm hoping that Mr. Polanksi holds to his obligations and I will hold him accountable for the decisions he makes," said Hardy.
This will make him the third Lackawanna Mayor in 21 years to jump to that job shortly after leaving office. In 1991, outgoing Mayor Tom Radich reportedly became housing authority director, as did the next Lackawanna Mayor after she left office.
Keep in mind, the mayor is the one who appoints many of those members to the housing authority board, who can then turn around and hire the mayor once the mayor is out of office.
On Friday, Polanski would not speak to us on camera. When we asked him by phone whether he got the job because he was mayor, he said: "Quite frankly, I'll stand on my credentials any day of the week against anyone. I served the city for two terms and left it in good shape. I'm confident in my experience."
As mayor, he did manage a $20 million city budget, compared to the authority's $3.5 million budget.
We went to see the chairman of the housing authority board Friday, but he would not comment.
For Polanski, the new job means a raise. As mayor, he made $55,000 a year. Running the authority, he expects to make about $85,000 a year. That means, if Polanski holds the housing authority job for three years, the size of his state pension is likely to grow.
Polanski expects initially to work for the authority on an interim basis, but plans to negotiate a longer-term contract. Polanski said the current director is stepping aside from the position for health reasons.