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Lehman Resigns as Public Works Commissioner, Giambra Meets with Unions

By Eileen Buckley

Buffalo, NY – An Erie County commissioner is calling it quits. Public Works Commissioner Maria Lehman announced that she is resigning from her county job.

County Executive Joel Giambra says she has decided to purse other career opportunities. But Lehman says she is burned out by the budget crisis.

"As a licensed professional engineer, I am not comfortable presiding over an infrastructure in a budget process that is long on desperation and short on engineering judgement," Lehman said. "The professional engineers and architects who are being laid off will not be back. They're very capable individuals who will find work elsewhere. I hope they find positions in Western New York so that we don't continue the 'brain drain.'"

Lehman is the first woman to hold such a post in the history of county government. She has filled the post for the last five years.

Giambra says in just one year, Lehman conducted $50 million in needed repairs to a number of unsafe county roads, bridges and culverts.

On another issue, Giambra said he met Thursday morning with seven of the eight unions representing county workers. However, the CSEA was the only union not present. For months, Giambra has been calling on labor to come to the table to talk about changes in spending. He would not elaborate on his talks with the unions, but says it was good exchange of ideas.

"I'm not going to discuss any of the details. I'm not going to negotiate contracts in public," Giambra said. "Suffice it to say, it was a very healthy, productive meeting and was hopefully the beginning of a relationship between labor and management that will deal with the structural problems in county government."

Giambra says it was irresponsible for the CSEA not to appear at Thursday morning's meeting. But when WBFO asked him how he might work to bring them to the table. He said he can not get involved in "union politics." Giambra says he's already begged the union, but the door remains open.