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Water Authority: "There is no golden parachute in this contract"

ECWA answer questions from Erie County Lawmakers

March 22, 2018 - 2:37 pm
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Buffalo, N.Y. (WBEN) - Following a firestorm of controversy surrounding reports that a new contract for Erie County Water Authority Executive Director Earl Jann includes a "golden parachute" that would pay him more than $300 thousand in the event he is forced out for political reasons, authority commissioners were before the Erie County Legislature's Government Affairs Committee Thursday.

"There is no golden parachute in this contract", authority chairman Robert Anderson told lawmakers in referencing Jann's contract.  Anderson spent a good deal of time during the hearing defending the qualifications of Jann and the work of the authority and its staff of hundreds.

Jann was not present at the meeting which was requested by Legislator Patrick Burke.  Following the session, Burke told WBEN he felt it was an "adult conversation".  In responding to Anderson's assertion that the Jann contract does not include a 'golden parachute', Burke says, "I guess he was arguing semantics".  Burke continued by saying by any other definition of a 'golden parachute' the contract includes such language.

"My issue if accountability", said Legislator Tom Loughran in questioning Karl Simmeth of the Authority.  Loughran has been outspoken in calling for reforms at the water authority and Simmeth responded in the session by saying, "I think things are running pretty smooth over there".  Simmeth challenged Loughran for more detail on the types of reforms he is seeking.

A frustrated Loughran told the authority staff, "you're not going to reform yourself, if there's going to be reform it's going to come from outside".

Burke asked the water authority staff to appear before the legislature on a regular basis throughout the year and noted that the legislature has only limited checks and balances over the organization.  Much of the regulation and policy within the authority is set by the state while the legislature votes to confirm commissioner appointments.

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Following the meeting WBEN attempted to speak with Anderson about how the session went and he refused comment and handed us a printed copy of the report he provided the committee.

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