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Executive Director At Water Authority Will Leave With Golden Parachute

6:04 PM, Mar 17, 2013   |    comments
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BUFFALO, N.Y. - When people like County Executive Mark Poloncarz's brother, or county Republican chairman Nick Langworthy's sister-in -law get jobs at the Erie County Water Authority, the man doing the hiring was the Authority's longtime Executive Director Bob Mendez.

Often times recommendations on who Mendez should hire would come from the Republican and Democratic party chairmen or the authority's three commissioners.

Now Mendez, who has placed so many of the well-connected in jobs over the years, will soon be out of a job himself.

Last week, 2 On Your Side has learned, the three authority commissioners gave Mendez a letter saying his contract, which payed him $154,000 a year will not be renewed when it expires at the end of this month.

But Mendez will hardly be walking away empty handed.

Under the terms of the contract he negotiated with the board three years ago, Mendez will receive a lump sum payment equal to one year's salary, meaning he'll get a check for $154,000.

In addition, the contract says the Water Authority will continue to pay for Mendez's "medical insurance for the remainder of his life."

So with Mendez leaving, does that mean the political hiring at the Authority will be a thing of the past? Hardly.

The next Executive Director will be hired by the authority's three commissioners, who are appointed by the county legislature, and often take their marching orders from the county's Democratic and Republican Chairmen.

Jack O'Donnell is one of the Water Authority's three current commissioners, but O'Donnell, who was seen as a reformer at the authority, recently was not reappointed to a new term by the county legislature, and so O'Donnell will be leaving the authority in late April.

O'Donnell doesn't hold out much hope that whoever succeeds Mendez will change much at the authority.

"The question is who comes in next, is it someone who understands engineering and water delivery, is it someone who understands managing a major utility, I have my doubts that that's what the party bosses are going to be looking for," said O'Donnell.

Instead of reappointing O'Donnell to another three year term as commissioner, the county legislature instead chose Chris O'Brien, a lawyer and major donor to the Democratic party and new party Chairman Jeremy Zellner.

The appointment of a new Executive Director will be one of the first tests for O'Brien, who has said he wants to do what's best for ratepayers.
















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