Best and Brightest

Why so quiet?

That was fast. 

Just about a week ago, Erie County Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw hired a person named Jeff Bochiechio to be his new chief-of-staff. Mychajliw had famously pledged to hire only the “best and brightest” and specifically campaigned on a pledge to not just end, but root out, the “friends and family plan” of county hiring commonly referred to as patronage. 

Jeff Bochiechio may have been the best and brightest person to apply or submit a resume for the position of chief of staff – I don’t know. Frankly, I don’t think that it’s a bad thing for an elected official to surround himself with close friends and associates in some positions, because these are the people you know and trust to do a good job for you. Patronage isn’t always horrible. But compare: 

 So, Mr. Mychajliw has held himself to a higher standard, given his campaign pledges about eliminating patronage completely, which is why his former WGRZ colleagues so sharply questioned him on January 10th about this Bochiechio hire

According to Bochiechio’s resume and LinkedIn page, he began his career working for former Republican congressman Tom Reynolds, he was former County Executive Chris Collins chief fundraiser for three years, he says he ran Jane Corwin’s 2008 campaign for state assembly, and had a patronage position in Buffalo with Republicans in the state senate.

In defending his hiring of Boccheicio, Mychajliw points to the fact he’s a lawyer.

Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw: “My predecessors have hired a public relations person for that position of chief of staff where I have hired a public sector attorney with municipal experience and extensive experience e and state and local finance law and tax law and IDA law.” 

Scott Brown: “You say extensive experience, he worked for less than a year at a local law firm, he’s fresh out of law school where is his extensive experience?” 

Stefan Mychajliw: “In the same respect that Mark Poloncarz was a private sector attorney and served in the office of Erie County comptroller.”

Heh. Nice one, right? Except Mark Poloncarz was sworn in as a lawyer in 1998, and became Comptroller in 2006. That’s 8 years’ worth of experience doing corporate finance law at a big downtown firm; the comptroller should know that 8 is more than 1. Also – public sector attorney? Bochiechio’s LinkedIn page reveals only a brief stint with a private downtown firm. There is no evidence whatsoever of him having been a “public sector attorney”. 

But perhaps Bochiechio had special qualifications? For instance, he was a full-time law student at UB between 2008 – 2011, yet served as the New York State Senate’s “WNY Regional Director – Majority Operations” during his third year of law school.  According to SeeThroughNY, Bochiechio “earned” $49,154 in 2010, and a further $34,112 in 2011. That’s over $83,000 in taxpayer money for what is – if you’re also simultaneously attending law school – essentially a no-show job. 

Today, Bochiechio resigned abruptly as Channel 4 reported that he had pled guilty to DWI in Machias. He was arrested in October for blowing a .13 BAL – almost twice the legal limit. It’s unlikely that he’ll serve time in jail, but he will likely pay a fine, be on some sort of probation, have his license revoked for 6 months, and be required to have an ignition interlock device installed in his car. What kind of vetting took place to hire this young kid, about whom no one would be paying any attention if he was just working in the private sector? 

Scott Brown: “Most of his (Bochiechio’s) background in politics is as a fundraiser, will you used him to raise money for your campaign?” 

Stefan Mychajliw: “Certainly an option, I want to hired the best and brightest for this office and I also want to make sure that I have the best and brightest and most competent people when it comes to running for re-election this year.” 

Bochiechio’s position has a starting salary of $62,000 a year. 

This guy was hired because he’s got political experience running campaigns for Republicans, and because he’s well-connected. There’s nothing ostensibly wrong with that – indeed, it’d have been a smart hire, if he didn’t have the DWI. But when you make a big deal about rooting out patronage, you’re going to come under especial scrutiny about hiring friends, family, and the well-connected. This wasn’t just a hire violative of Mychajliw’s campaign pledge – it was poorly vetted, even for a patronage hack.