Managing the Water Authority

When it comes to attorney Chris O’Brien’s application to join the board of the Erie County Water Authority, one has to remember that Mr. O’Brien stands to gain absolutely naught from this appointment. He won’t get new clients or cases through his association with the ECWA, he won’t gain or lose any political clout – he’s a generous contributor, and asks nothing in return, and the position isn’t one with a high enough profile that it might enable him to market his personal political brand in some way. 

Staffing a public authority involves political considerations? Fetch me my fainting couch. I guess the installation of Jack O’Donnell in 2010 and the pending application of Chris O’Brien reveal that, in the end, elections matter. 

By way of full disclosure, Chris is a personal friend of mine, and there’s no upside here for him. All he’s doing is applying to someday appear on an Al Vaughters expose of the way the Water Authority conducts its business; he’s applying for a headache. It’s an administrative board, and he’s been the principal of a law firm for decades. Sometimes, people just want to commit public service in the first degree. That this application is remotely controversial is just dumb. 


  • Your friend is just reaping the cynicism sown by years of crony politics of the very sort you rail against regularly.  He may well be as you describe him, but the Water Authority has been rife with questionable appointments and perks for so long that appointment to it is bound to be a source of skepticism.

    When I was first paying attention to WNY politics one of the stories was a local political leader’s energetic defense of the fact that (at the time) Water Authority Commissioner were given cars as a perk of their position.  It was outrageous, in his view, that dedicated public servants, essentially doing a job for free, shouldn’t get this small token of the public’s appreciation.

    Things have changed for the better since then, but it’s reasonable for people to question the motives of someone seeking this position.  I’m sure once he’s appointed and goes about his business in a manner that is above reproach no one will even remember his name in a few months.

  • So, your friend is a generous contributor who asks nothing in return but everyone else who gives is so self-motivated that we must use taxpayer dollars to publicly finance campaigns?  He isn’t interested in the stipend or the taxpayer-funded health insurance that comes with the position?

  • Wait, so relying on politics in an appointment process is okay if it benefits your friends and the people you support?  Seriously? Selective outrage.

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