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By 6-5 vote, Schad approved for continued stay as ECWA Commissioner

Michael Mroziak, WBFO

Jerome Schad will remain as a commissioner for the Erie County Water Authority for another term. Erie County Legislators voted 6-to-5, along partisan lines, to retain the incumbent.

Those opposing his nomination first tried unsuccessfully to delay the hire to allow more interested candidates to apply.

Schad was one of only two people to interview for the position. The other candidate was Peter Reese, an applicant that some lawmakers thought was more qualified to bring reform to the Water Authority.

"We had one who has been a commissioner for the past six years and has been censured by the (New York State) Authorities Budget Office. Ad we had an applicant that has three degrees in industrial engineering and could go in there and have some actual reform, and I wanted to get that name forward," said Legislature Minority Leader Joseph Lorigo about Schad and Reese, in order.

Indeed, Schad came under fire last year with the state's ABO released the findings of its audit of the Water Authority. It harshly criticized the local entity for what it declared an unacceptable lack of administrative transparency. The ABO recommended all commissioners active during the audit period be terminated.

Schad, however, was spared. Lawmakers voting in favor of his nomination for a new term suggest since the shuffling of leadership within the Water Authority board, Schad has taken a leading role as Chairman to initiate changes addressing problems raised in the ABO report. Supporters including Legislature Chairman Peter Savage believe Schad deserves the chance to keep working.

"They have rectified, corrected and addressed those issues," said Savage. "Those were issues of open meetings law violations, FOIL (Freedom of Information Law), dealing with the media and public relations, averting the public in terms of being transparent with their public meetings. That changed."

Savage adds that the Water Authority was not accused of any wroungdoing in regards to water quality or financial management.

But some argue keeping Schad in the Erie County Water Authority is keeping politics as usual. Legislator Edward Rath III, in his remarks prior to the vote, likened it to insanity.

"Ladies and gentlemen, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. This is insanity if we are going to appoint Mr. Schad as a Water Authority commissioner and expect things to change."

Lorigo first attempted to halt the hiring by proposing a 45-day moratorium on the nomination, in order to reopen the window of opportunity for candidates to apply for the position. Critics say the original period was too short to gather an adequate number of applications and was poorly advertised.

That proposal was defeated, also by a 6-to-5 vote.

Michael Mroziak is an experienced, award-winning reporter whose career includes work in broadcast and print media. When he joined the WBFO news staff in April 2015, it was a return to both the radio station and to Horizons Plaza.