It’s election season and there’s no more important race than for the Erie County Comptroller’s Office – the Chief Financial Officer of a $1.5 billion government. Although this certainly isn’t a ‘sexy’ office to hold, that hasn’t stopped current officeholder Stefan Mychajliw from trying to add some pizazz.
Stefan came into office with some lofty promises and populist rhetoric, but what has he actually done since taking office nine months ago?
He said he’d only hire the ‘best and the brightest,’ which is a rhetorical homage to his former boss Chris Collins. Yet, nearly every appointee he’s hired has gotten into some kind of trouble and resigned already.
First, was his Associate Deputy Comptroller Jeff Bochiechio, former Collins fundraiser who had absolutely no financial background. He lasted only 15 days, resigning after it was made public that he was pending sentencing for a DWI charge a few months earlier.
Second was, Stefan’s personal secretary and another Collins alumnus, Natalie Neri, who lasted a bit longer—about four months—but recently resigned at the beginning of August.
And last, there’s the infamous Deputy Comptroller-Audit Teresa Fraas, who orchestrated ‘garbage gate’ and had shown herself to be utterly incompetent, just resigned. So, out of four possible appointee positions in his office, three people have resigned in just nine months. Draw your own conclusions from that.
Stefan also made a lot of promises about his audit department and how they were going to save taxpayers millions of dollars. Recently, he tried touting that he’d completed 23 audits and reviews, which is more in nine months than his predecessors had completed in several years. Upon closer inspection, like much of Stefan’s tenure, this is just smoke and mirrors from a creative spinster. More than half of the supposed ‘23 audits and reviews’ are literally just press releases. And, most of those are the exact same release template with updated numbers about monthly sales tax revenues. Of the 23, none can be considered an actual audit and only a handful loosely resemble a review.
But, the most important question surrounding these isn’t how many he’s done, but what have they accomplished? In my view, absolutely nothing other than get a quick press hit. But, that’s probably all they were designed to do. He’s also promised several upcoming audits, which will likely be strategically released to aid his reelection prospects on such important issues as elevator maintenance in the Rath Building and sex change operations at the County Jails – real hard hitting stuff that I cannot wait to see on Channel 2.
When Stefan’s not trying to tell us something unimportant is the most important thing ever, he’s trying to take credit, where no credit is due. Just this week he has attempted to sell us all that he was instrumental in convincing FEMA not to recoup the $48 million as part of the October 2006 storm audit as well as saving County taxpayers about $5 million through the Control Board borrowing instead of the County.
I am positive that Poloncarz wouldn’t let Stefan and his soap box anywhere near the FEMA discussions and when it comes to who borrows funds—that’s the administration’s call as well. The Comptroller only serves the ministerial function of caring out the borrowing after the county executive tells him to do it.
Yours truly had pretty high hopes for Stefan because I thought that even though he had no actual financial qualifications, he’d put good people around him and do the job in as nonpartisan a way as possible. Unfortunately, it’s been just the opposite. He’s filled his office with political retreads and been about as partisan as one can get.