BUFFALO, N.Y. — Democrats who control the Erie County Legislature re-appointed Jerome Schad to his seat as a commissioner of the Erie County Water Authority (ECWA) on Thursday.
Schad also serves as the Democrat party leader in the town of Amherst,
Schad came under fire last year after a scathing report on the ECWA from the NYS Authorities Budget Office (“ABO”) that formally censured the Water Authority and outlined numerous problems including a lack of transparency and accountability in governance and decision-making.
"This community deserves better…I’m not comfortable with Jerry Schad going forward," said minority caucus leader Joseph Lorigo (West Seneca).
But Schad has repeatedly pointed out that most of the criticisms contained in the report were from a time when he served as a minority member on the ECWA Board and has insisted that he has made changes since becoming the chairman of the board.
At the same time, minority Republicans tried and failed to block the appointment, while moving to cut the pay of those who serve on the water authority board.
They were joined in their effort by democrat legislator Thomas Loughran (Amherst), an often vocal critic of the Water Authority and the way board members are appointed.
"This vote today is maintaining the status quo and maintaining a broken system," said Loughran, who is not seeking re-election this year.
Republicans requested a 45-day moratorium on voting to make the ECWA board appointment after Schad was one of only two applicants who interviewed for the position last week.
"This is a deliberative body and this is being rushed through," said Legislator Edward Rath (R-Amherst). "Let's slow down the process... let's see if we can fish in a different pool and see if we can catch more applicants," Rath said.
As well, the minority caucus moved to slash the $22,500 annual stipend paid to ECWA board members to $100 per meeting.
“That is their call, said Schad when asked about the Republican proposal following a meeting of the ECWA Thursday morning. “I don’t tell the legislature what to do so let them do what they want to do today.”
In the end, even with Loughran having crossed the aisle to vote with the minority caucus, both the proposals to delay the appointment and to cut the stipends failed by a 6-5 vote.
By a similar 6-5 vote, Schad was then re-appointed as an ECWA Commissioner for a term that will expire in April 2022.
In June of 2018, shortly after the critical ABO report, Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz outlined a package of proposed reforms for the ECWA, including reducing the yearly stipend for board members to $7,500 to bring them more in line with what board members at other water Authorities around the state are paid.