Erie County Legislature Minority Leader Betty Jean Grant is accusing a former Democratic staffer of deleting thousands of files from the county’s computer network in an attempt to sabotage the Legislature’s transition from Democratic to Republican majority rule.
Grant said James Cerroni Jr. – who, until Jan. 2, was deputy clerk of the Legislature during Grant’s two-year tenure as majority leader – deleted the master file for the Legislature. Grant, who also is a Democrat, speculated that Cerroni intended to cause a major disruption of the transition process and make her look bad in the process.
Cerroni said he had nothing to do with it.
Grant said, “I really feel betrayed, because this was done by a former Democratic staffer, without my knowledge.”
“I’m appalled that somebody would try to do sabotage like that in an attempt to undermine my integrity,” she added.
The files were later restored.
Cerroni has denied the allegations, despite an audit by the county’s Information and Support Services, which determined that several computer files and folders were deleted around 12:15 p.m. on Jan. 2 under Cerroni’s account.
“I had nothing to do with it,” Cerroni said Tuesday.
“In my eyes, this is just a political stunt by Betty Jean Grant,” he added.
Despite having had a cordial working relationship over the two years of Grant’s tenure as majority leader, Grant and Cerroni are each aligned with rival wings of the local Democratic party. Cerroni – who is married to a niece of former Erie County Democratic Chairman G. Steven Pigeon – also acknowledged that he has met with State Sen. Timothy M. Kennedy about acquiring a job on Kennedy’s staff.
Grant and Kennedy are bitter political rivals, having run a close contest against each other in the September 2012 Democratic Party primary election for the newly redrawn 63rd State Senate seat that Kennedy now holds.
Meanwhile, the newly appointed clerk for the Legislature, Scott Kroll, a Republican, said the temporarily missing files barely had an impact on the Legislature’s transition from Democratic to GOP-aligned majority rule, which he described as relatively smooth.
He estimated that it took about two hours to restore the deleted files.
“I don’t even feel affected by it,” said Kroll.
Still, Grant on Tuesday vowed to pursue the matter with the county attorney.