When PoliticsNY.net broke the story about Erie County Democratic Committee Chairman Jeremy Zellner's rush to shake up the Water Authority board of commissioners, insiders were scratching their heads. Why would the defeated party leader make this move his first priority?
Just hours after Zellner and his team were spanked at the polls, why would he bother with the Water Authority?
PoliticsNY.net has learned that, just as the Buffalo News speculated, it is all about former Democrat chairman Lenny Lenihan. And Zellner, of course.
Insiders told us Zellner promised the next Water Authority appointment to Lenihan, the former ECDC chairman and his mentor, long ago. Neither pol thought about a GOP takeover of the legislature until it was almost too late. They couldn't accomplish it during the election; the issue would have been bottled up in the County legislature, for sure. So they plotted to do it after Election Day. Fast.
Freshly tarred at the polls, Zellner is racing to feather Lenihan's nest because he owes him. And because he needs a job himself. A dead man walking at his legislature day job, it's not a longshot bet the present ECDC chairman may end up working for the former chairman at the Water Authority.
Indeed, Zellner was beaten badly on Election Night, as they feared. The Republicans took over the legislature for the first time since the Blizzard of '77. And hours later, Lenihan and Zellner moved into action.
Water Authority Commissioner Christopher O'Brien happily resigned, sick of all the politics in the place. Commissioner Fran Warthling stepped up to fill O'Brien's seat. The County Legislature issued a hollow call for resumes, but Warthling's resume will somehow rise to the top.
Warthling's seat, now empty, will be filled by Lenihan. But first the Democrats in the Legislature will fake another request for resumes from the public. Lenihan's will similarly rise.
The co-conspirators have two problems: They're running out of time, with just a handful of legislative meetings remaining before the Republicans are sworn in and take over. Also, how can Warthling fill O'Brien's seat without resigning? If he's serving on the Commission, he cannot apply to join it. He has to quit first.
One can understand why Warthling is loathe to resign, then apply for the same job. What if some blog or radio talk show or TV show worked hard to expose all this to the public and somehow blocked Warthling from filling the vacant seat - after he quit the other seat? Crazier things have happened. That would really suck.
Nevertheless, the temporary Democrat county legislature majority is dutifully helping the temporary Democrat chairman put a $22,500 part-time commissioner salary into the pocket of the real Democrat party boss. For almost two years.
To accomplish this, Democrat county legislators, Zellner and Lenihan - rejected on Election Day - must act as though the will of the people means nothing.
To do this, they must brazenly manipulate the political process. Fully cognizant that they stepped, then dropped and rolled in dog droppings, they just do what must be done to get Lenny paid and pretend they don't smell a thing.
In fact, Zellner and Lenihan are telling insiders they cannot be stopped. In the hands of an experienced political campaign professional, this brand of hick hubris is gold.
Note to County legislators: this is too much. Stop it. Be very careful when you are making the decision to help with this scheme. Consider your political future. Because when a well-financed, truly professional, cutting-edge communications campaign is focused 100 percent on you, you can be defeated, too. Every. Single. One of you.
This, too, is why Erie County is turning back to the Republican Party. Not because Republicans never do such things. Of course they do. Instead, voters see the local GOP has limitations on it's cynicism - and the Erie County Democrats clearly do not.