Water Authority candidate withdraws, citing 'highly political' setup

Buffalo News |

--After Erie County legislators finished interviewing three candidates for the Erie County Water Authority board last week, several said two candidates impressed them: Democratic attorney Mark Carney, widely considered the front runner, and Republican businesswoman Rhonda Ricks.

But they won't get a chance to support Ricks' bid.

Ricks sent a two-sentence email to Legislature Chairman Peter Savage withdrawing her name from consideration for a soon-to-be vacant commissioner's seat.

The city developer told The Buffalo News that while she knew the water authority was a political organization, the politics were worse than she thought.

"It's highly, highly political," she said. "I'm just interested in getting the work done. So I decided to put my energies elsewhere."

She said no one pressured her to remove her name or enticed her with other offers. It was just reported that Ricks is expected to be appointed by the Buffalo Common Council to the 11-member Buffalo Preservation Board. The Preservation Board seat is an unpaid position. The Water Authority post pays $22,500 a year.

"It was a personal decision," she said. "Nobody tried to twist my arm or promise me anything."

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The County Legislature is expected to appoint a Democrat to the commissioner's seat being vacated by Republican Robert Anderson in April because the Democrats now have a one-vote majority in the Legislature.

Ricks said that after her lengthy interview and reading the follow-up story in the paper, she decided after some reflection that she would have only limited influence over an organization that is politically structured under state law.

"I could see, forging ahead, that was going to be a huge lift in comparison to all the other community service I do, in addition to running my business," said Ricks, who runs R+A+R Development.

She also said that while she has no problem "being in the trenches," ultimately the bulk of the clean-up work needs to be undertaken by the State Legislature, which structured the public authority.

Aside from Carney, retired architect Thomas E. Jaeger, a Conservative, has also applied for the commissioner's seat.

Savage, D-Buffalo, is tasked with putting forward a candidate's name for the commissioner's seat. That person would be voted on by the full Legislature.

However, Legislator Thomas Loughran, D-Amherst, has moved a separate resolution seeking a 90-day moratorium on filling the post.

Related: Minority developer to be named to city's Preservation Board

Lawmakers may impose 90-day freeze on Water Authority appointment

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