Legislators upset over water authority no-show

A snubbed invite has some Erie County lawmakers and commissioners of the Erie County Water Authority at odds.

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – A snubbed invite has some Erie County lawmakers and commissioners of the Erie County Water Authority at odds. Legislators were looking for answers from the water authority at a legislative committee meeting Thursday. But the commissioners didn’t show up.

On Tuesday, Legislator Patrick Burke, a Democrat, invited the commissioners to the meeting, looking for an explanation about a controversial employment contract recently signed by the water authority’s executive director, Earl Jann. Instead, the commissioners were in their own committee meeting.

“It was late in the day Tuesday afternoon that I got that,” explained Erie County Water Authority Chairman Robert Anderson. “We have a schedule online that we can amend at times, but less than 48 hours just doesn’t give us enough time.”

“When something of this great importance comes up, I think they can push a committee meeting back,” responded Legislator Burke. “They could have been here at 11 o’clock. They could have talked to us.”

Controversy over Jann’s contract began swirling last week. It’s a three-year contract, and includes money Jann, who was appointed by Republican commissioners, is entitled to, even if he is fired. That might happen later this year, if Democrats on the county legislature appoint a left-leaning commissioner.

“It’s certainly highlighting the issue,” Burke said about Jann’s contract. “The water authority broadly has been a concern I think for everyone for a while.

“We would have asked them more specifically how they plan to reform the water authority.”

Burke never had the chance. But before the water authority’s meeting Thursday morning, News 4 did.

“I’m not going to get into any of that right now,” said Anderson.

When asked why, he added, “Because I want to sit in front of the Erie County Legislature, whether it’s the government affairs committee or the entire legislature, and I will explain any questions they ask. I don’t want to be hypothetical about what they might ask.”

Burke, who is running for a state assembly seat, said he will invite the commissioners again in two weeks, on March 22nd. The water authority has another meeting scheduled for that morning, however. It’s unclear whether that meeting will be rescheduled.

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