As anticipated, Democrats in the Erie County Legislature have agreed to appoint Jerome D. Schad, currently the counsel for the Legislature majority, to a vacant seat on the Water Authority Board of Commissioners.
Schad’s tentative appointment was confirmed in a letter submitted Tuesday to the Legislature clerk by Legislature Chairwoman Betty Jean Grant, D-Buffalo. It is expected that the appointment will be officially confirmed when the Legislature meets in regular session Thursday.
Democrats currently hold a 6-5 majority in the Legislature, giving them the votes to control the appointment. That one-vote advantage will end when a new Republican majority takes over Jan. 1, following this month’s elections.
Schad, a 35-year private practice attorney who has served as majority counsel since January 2012, was tapped to fill the unexpired term of Christopher J. O’Brien, who resigned the commissioner’s post six months after his appointment last spring. O’Brien’s unexpired term is set to conclude in April 2016.
Schad, 71, who is chairman of the Amherst Democratic Committee, was among 12 candidates who were interviewed individually Monday by members of the Legislature’s Energy and Environment Committee in a three-hour public session. Among them were other local attorneys, engineers and those with experience in the municipal water delivery business.
Robert J. Lohr, a candidate from Hamburg who recently retired as a supervisor after 32 years with the Erie County Water Authority, lauded the work of his former colleagues.
“The media can take shots at them, but when it comes down to doing business, they take it very seriously and they do it very well,” Lohr said Monday.
The former City of Lackawanna lawmaker and School Board trustee asked county legislators to approve a resolution he crafted that would bar Water Authority management from granting itself wage increases and bonuses beyond what is negotiated for the authority’s rank-and-file workers.
Among the other candidates to fill the vacancy were Thomas M. Agostino, who retired in 2005 as superintendent of the Buffalo Water Authority, and Peter A. Reese, a local blogger who, according to his résumé is a lawyer and former cancer research scientist. Reese called the Water Authority, as currently structured, anachronistic and said that it should be scrapped.
His sentiments were echoed by Jeffrey D. Brzyski, of the City of Tonawanda, who works as chief payroll officer in the Erie County Personnel Department. Hans J. Mobius, a retired Clarence businessman who raises show horses, had hoped to represent farmers’ interests on the Water Authority board.
Paul W. Wolf, of Getzville, was among several local attorneys who applied to fill the vacancy, including former Amherst Town Supervisor and Council Member Daniel J. Ward, who also commented on the quality of the candidates.
“First, I would say, with the group of people that you have here, you’d be well-represented on the Water Authority by the choice of almost all of them that I know of,” Ward told lawmakers Monday.
Republican Legislators who attended Monday’s session with the Water Authority board candidates voiced no opposition to Schad’s likely appointment, or to any of the candidates who appeared before the Energy and Environment Committee. Even without any Republican support, Democrats in the Legislature have enough votes to confirm Schad’s appointment Thursday.
It is anticipated that Republicans in the Legislature will embark on a similar process in April when the term of Vice Chairman Earl L. Jann Jr. expires. Jann is the lone Republican on the three-member Water Authority board.
Upon confirmation by the Legislature, Schad would join fellow Democratic Commissioner Francis G. Warthling, who serves as chairman of the Water Authority board, and Jann.