Major Democratic Donor Gets Water Authority Seat

7:18 PM, Feb 22, 2013   |    comments
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Buffalo, N.Y. - As expected, Chris O'Brien, an Amherst attorney and major Democratic party donor, was appointed by the Erie County legislature to one of the three commissioner jobs at the Erie County Water Authority.

Incumbent Jack O'Donnell's three year term expires in April. During his tenure, O'Donnell has tried to cut costs and jobs at the Water Authority, which has long been a haven for patronage jobs for both Republicans and Democrats.

O'Donnell was not expected to be reappointed by the county legislature because he is not on friendly terms with the new Erie County Democratic Party Chairman, Jeremy Zellner.

During interviews in front of legislators last week, O'Brien was asked if he had any "revolutionary ideas" for the authority.

"To be honest with you I don't have any revolutionary, game changing ideas," said O'Brien.

For weeks, the political buzz has been that O'Brien would get the $22,500 a year part-time job, which is coveted because the three Water Authority commissioners determine who gets hired there.

On Thursday, all six Democrats voted for O'Brien, although none that we spoke to could really articulate why.

Chairwoman Better Jean Grant said she was going to vote for whoever the other five members of the Democratic caucus would.

Scott Brown: "Did you think he (O'Brien) was the best candidate?"

Betty Jean Grant: "That's a moot question, it doesn't matter, he's on the Authority now."

Scott Brown: "You voted for him, do you think he was the best candidate who you interviewed?"

Betty Jean Grant: "I don't know if he was or not."

Scott Brown: "What do you think O'Brien offered that O'Donnell didn't?"

Tom Loughran, (D) Amherst "Well Scott, you this is a process and you have to build a consensus, our caucus got together and we got a consensus around Chris O'Brien."

Scott Brown: "Did (Democratic Chairman) Jeremy Zellner talk to you guys and say 'hey I want O'Brien?'"

Tom Maur (D) Cheektowaga: "Not to me, no he didn't talk to me about it. He did say he knows O'Brien, I didn't get any pressure from anybody and you know what, I don't play that game."

O'Brien will take over as one of the three commissioners in April.































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