Richie Kessel has worked hard to try and change the image of the New York Power Authority, but his appointment of former board member Elise Cusack to a $77,500 part-time job is a stark reminder that this leopard has yet to change its spots.
This is the same NYPA that has a boat load of employees making over $100,000 a year, that thinks nothing of paying security guards and laborers $60,000 a pop.
I'll give Kessel credit for cutting the bonus program a year ago and holding the line in contract talks since he came on board as president and CEO.
But creating a job for Cusack - no one else was considered for the post - and attaching a $77,500 salary for part-time work it is going to prompt a lot of folks to shake their heads and say "Same old NYPA."
As George Maziarz, chairman of the Senate Energy Committee, put it: "Seventy-seven-thousand, five-hundred dollars a year? Part-time? It's outrageous."
Kessel would have us believe Cusack's hiring is justified because she did a bang-up job on the board and NYPA has a big ongoing role to play in the development of Buffalo's inner-harbor.
Wrong and wrong.
Cusack was almost invisible during her nearly five years on the board. Hell, there was a year when she rarely even showed up for meetings.
And NYPA's role in CanalSide largely involves writing a check. The project is receiving some $100 million via NYPA through several deals negotiated over the years with Congressman Brian Higgins. The task of spending that money rests with the Erie Harbor Canal Development Corp.
I mean, how many state authorities do we need involved in the project?
If Kessel needs someone on his staff to interact with the CanalSide folks, he's already got employees working out of a satellite office on Perry Street.
To say nothing of the several hundred people he's got working up the road in Lewiston at the Niagara Power Project.
To say nothing of the cast of thousands working out of HQ in White Plains.
When it's all said and done, Casack's appointment has the marks of a make-work position - and an inside job.
Meanwhile, Western New York is still waiting on Kessel to follow through on his pledge to share a portion of the profits generated at the Niagara Power Project.
He promised to share the wealth a year ago when Higgins introduced federal legislation to force the issue. While NYPA did come through with more money to help finance CanalSide, it has yet to commit money for economic development in Niagara County, where the power plant is located.
Meanwhile, the Power Authority keeps acquiescing to demands from Albany to sweep its books of profits to help bail out the state budget. That leaves no money for the community.
So, while I'll give Kessel credit for doing more for WNY, I'll also point out that in some important ways, it's still the same old, same old.
taggedNew York Power Authority