GOP: Give Out Patronage
Lets start out with a joke,
Why did Niagara Falls get all of the toxic waste and Lewiston all of the lawyers?
Niagara Falls got to pick first. (Thank you thank you, I’ll be here all week folks)
Niagara county needs many things. What we don’t need is more county employed lawyers. Guess how many we have. If you guessed 25, an unreasonably high number for a county in desperate need of better financial management, you’d be crazy. Crazy and sadly too frugal of a guesser. 36! That is how many attorneys Niagara County employs. Does Niagara County need 36 attorneys?
So where do these attorneys come from (besides the bottom of a swamp)? The Niagara County GOP, currently the overwhelming legislative majority, has the authority to hire all of the County’s attorneys. Niagara County attorneys enjoy health insurance, pensions, and a yearly pay raise. Further, all of these attorneys are permitted to have their own private practice outside of their County responsibilities. The Senior County Attorney, Claude George, earns almost $100,000.00 per year from the County alone.
So how does a budding young barrister get one of these coveted jobs? Well, by looking at the list of Republican Party and George Maziarz donors, the answer is clear. Attorneys get hired simply by donating large sums of money to Maziarz and the GOP.
The GOP even has an annual golf tournament, catered to attorneys, in which they demand a donation of $500.00 per golfer. And attorneys, both currently employed or anxiously awaiting employment, trip over themselves to make the donations.
Since all attorneys are not the same (with the exception of the speed in which they react to a passing ambulance), we must ask, is Niagara County getting the best legal services for their money? We think not. Clearly, Niagara County’s team of legal eagles is comprised solely of attorneys generously contributing to the GOP and desperately hoping for a job.
Let’s look at a few of “Queen” George’s hand selected attorneys:
Theodore W. Janese, III, Esq.: An assistant County attorney for the last few years. He rakes in about $40,000.00 per year for this part-time gig. On top of it, Maziarz appointed Janese as the chair of the Niagara Falls Water Board where Janese recently approved a patronage promotion to Republican-esque City Councilman Glenn Choolokian.
Niagara County Assistant County Attorney and former North Tonawanda City Court Judge R. Thomas Burgasser, Esq.: A close friend with the Senator, since Maziarz’s North Tonawanda days. Burgasser even used his connections to get his daughter, Jessica Burgasser, Esq., a part-time job with the Conflicts Attorney’s Office.
Speaking of Conflicts Attorneys, this is a new department within the County. Attorney, and Legislative Majority Leader Rick Updegrove sponsored legislation to create this new department of attorneys. The department is so controversial that it cannot even be accessed through the County website. It is rumored that there are 6 or 7 part-time Conflicts Attorneys in this office. Their sole job, we are told, is to represent those criminals that cannot be represented by the Public Defender’s Office because of some conflict of interest. Some of these attorneys have a case load of 2 or 3 cases per year. Don’t worry. Updegrove claims that their close to $50,000.00 per year salaries is a cost savings to the County. Makes you wonder whether Updegrove had some friends of his own that needed a job in this Department.
The newest Assistant County Attorney, Katherine D. Alexander, Esq: Hired late in 2011. Ms. Alexander was previously employed in Senator Maziarz’s Albany office while she was attending Albany Law School. She graduated law school in May 2011, passed the bar, and was admitted into practice in the Fall of 2011. Maziarz made good on his promise and provided her with a job as Niagara County Attorney just a few weeks after she became an attorney. Is this the most qualified candidate for the job? Or is being a County Attorney so simple that a lawyer only needs a week or two experience before she can master whatever Niagara County throws at her?
The Industrial Development Agency, run by Henry M. Sloma, also has a staff of attorneys that is not included in Niagara’s dream team of 36. The IDA is represented by Maziarz’s right hand man “King” Henry’s firm, Harris Beach. In fact, “King” Henry Wojtaszek, Esq. is a partner in that law firm. Wojtaszek’s wife Caroline Wojtaszek was also a Assistant District Attorney until she took a job with Judge Farkas in Niagara County.
And the list of attorneys goes on and on. Besides the County Attorney’s Office, there is a slew of District Attorneys, Public Defenders, Conflicts Attorneys, Social Services Attorneys, Water Board Attorneys, Industrial Development Attorneys, Labor attorneys, and other attorneys retained for special projects at an hourly rate. (The law firm of Webster Szanyi was retained, and billed the County about $300,000.00 to sue the New York State Power Authority. The firm eventually lost the lawsuit, but kept the fees).
And the hits keep coming! Former Legislator drop-put Vincent Sandonato is currently in law school and has been promised a job if and when he passes the Bar Exam. Also, Republican attorney Jenelle Messer, Esq., after diligently working on every Republican campaign under the sun, is expected to receive a job soon too.
For those Niagara County residents that have children that are aspiring lawyers, heed this advice: Register as a Republican, contribute and work on as many GOP campaigns, and a lucrative County Attorney job will be bestowed upon you by Queen George Maziarz and his minions.