Poloncarz Hired Wife of Lackawanna Mayor

12:38 AM, Jan 5, 2013   |    comments
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  • Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz (D).
  • Lackawanna Mayor Geoff Szymanski (D).

BUFFALO, N.Y. - 2 On Your Side has learned that shortly after Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz took office, his administration put a politically connected worker on the county payroll.

Poloncarz, a Democrat, is from Lackawanna, where he announced he was running for Erie County Executive in May of 2011. Less than five months after Poloncarz won that race, his administration hired the wife of Lackawanna Mayor Geoff Szymanski, a fellow Democrat, for a county job that was never advertised.

Szymanski's wife is an employment counselor in the county's department of social services. It pays approximately $40,000 a year. It's also a provisional job. That means the county executive can hire whomever he wants, but usually, within a year or so, the employee must take a civil service exam and score among the top three to keep the job. According to the county's personnel department, Mayor Szymanski's wife did take a state civil service exam for her position last month. The results typically come back within three-to-four months.

Based on our research, Mayor Szymanski's wife was highly qualified for the position. The question is why did she happen to get it instead of someone else?

We called the county executive's spokesperson who said neither he nor Poloncarz would be commenting, adding only: "There are many people in provisional jobs who are not married to the Lackawanna Mayor."

Five months after Poloncarz hired Mayor Szymanski's wife, the Erie County's Water Authority hired Poloncarz's brother to a $55,000 a year job. The Chairman of the Water Authority also happens to be the Chairman of the Lackawanna Democratic Party.

We went to the city hall office of the Lackawanna Mayor during business hours Friday, but his office was closed. We also left him a message at home.

This isn't the first time a member of Mayor Szymanski's family ended up on the public payroll. After taking office last year, he hired his wife's father as the city attorney. He too was highly qualified. In fact, he served as city attorney in the 1980s.

At the time, our Scott Brown asked Szymanski about hiring his father-in-law.

BROWN: For people out there who would say wasn't there anybody else qualified other than someone related to you what would you say?
MAYOR: Are there other qualified attorneys? Everyone's qualified to be it, but he's the one I tapped because he's the one I trust the most.

And in Erie County politics is often a family business.

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