A cable television manager and community leader who publicly criticized Mayor Byron W. Brown and Deputy Mayor Steven M. Casey in a recent Buffalo News leadership series is no longer working for Time Warner Cable.
Sharon L. Hanson, who worked at Time Warner for the past 15 years and has been negotiating on the company’s behalf with the City of Buffalo, left her position while the negotiations to extend Time Warner’s cable television franchise are continuing, city officials said.
Negotiations are “kind of on hold,” Thomas M. Tarapacki, the city’s director of telecommunications, utilities and franchises, recently told a Common Council committee. “We relied heavily upon her.”
With no explanation of Hanson’s departure, some Council members are wondering if it was related to recent comments she made in The News.
“Ms. Hanson was a very valuable member, especially of the negotiation team, on behalf of Time Warner,” said Council President Richard A. Fontana. “Unless it was a retirement – I didn’t hear of her retirement – I am very saddened to see her not be with Time Warner anymore. Hopefully, it’s not anything to do with anything she mentioned in the press.”
Hanson did not respond to requests from The News to comment on her departure. Time Warner declined to comment when asked about Hanson’s separation from the company but did say that franchise talks with the city are continuing. The company’s relationship with the city was described as “very positive.”
“We look forward to the final phase of discussions and, ultimately, a renewal that allows us to continue serving residents and business in the city,” the company said in a statement.
When asked, Brown and Casey denied any involvement in Hanson’s departure from Time Warner.
“Absolutely, positively, unequivocally not,” Brown said.
“Absolutely not,” said Casey.
Hanson, 66, participated in a series of leadership surveys conducted by The News and was interviewed for articles written in March about the survey results.
She was quoted in one article as saying that Brown “is not being the driver.”
“To me, that is unfortunate. Sometimes you have to be the driver of the bus,” she said. She also said Brown seems to be taking the black vote for granted.
In another article, she labeled Casey as “blatantly political” and said his power is attained almost through fear, rather than respect. Casey, she said, needs to be treated in such a way that he will “fall into his rightful place.”
While Hanson was one of several survey respondents quoted critiquing Brown, she was the only person who allowed her name to be used criticizing Casey, who fared poorly in the survey. He came in second to last among 25 local leaders ranked by survey respondents. Brown ranked eighth.
Hanson was identified in the articles as director of government relations for a local cable company and member of the Erie County Medical Center’s board of directors. The article did not mention the name of the cable company that employed her.
But others who know and have worked with Hanson are questioning whether her departure from the company is related to her criticism of the mayor and his top aide.
“When the article came out, I thought she was being courageous and honest for saying those statements – the same thing a lot of people are saying among themselves,” said Erie County Legislature Chairwoman Betty Jean Grant.
“But I was waiting for the other shoe to drop, due to the fact that those statements were against somebody who doesn’t take too kindly to statements such as that,” she said. Grant said she was referring to Casey.
Grant, who is often at odds with Brown politically, said she does not know why Hanson is no longer with Time Warner and does not want to accuse anyone. But Grant said she would be disappointed in Time Warner if the company forced Hanson out for talking to the newspaper.
“The statements she made had nothing to do with Time Warner,” Grant said. “She wasn’t speaking for Time Warner. If she was terminated because of her speaking her mind, I think that is a travesty.”
Hanson had worked since 1998 as manager of public and government affairs with Time Warner. As part of her job, she notified municipal officials of rate changes and negotiated contracts. She also served as host of the company’s public access show, “Time Warner Today.”
The Canisius College graduate is also a longtime member of the ECMC board, having served three terms as board chairwoman; she currently is vice chairwoman. She has served on the boards of the Great Lakes Health System, MusicalFare Theatre and Trocaire College.
She was also a Leadership Buffalo graduate and a finalist in 2008 for the Athena Award, which recognizes professional experience, dedication, community service and support for the goals of professional women in the Buffalo Niagara region.