A finalist for appointment to the vacant county comptroller's post is criticizing Democratic Headquarters' handling of its search process, claiming he believes the choice is already made to select Boston Town Clerk David J. Shenk.
George F. Hasiotis said he hopes to blunt a growing perception that the decision on whom to recommend to the County Legislature for appointment has already been determined.
"Unless you point out the idea that there's a predetermined outcome, it will happen," Hasiotis said. "There has to be fairness for everyone involved."
Hasiotis and Shenk join M&T Bank Vice President David P. Rutecki, former Amherst Supervisor Daniel J. Ward and former Buffalo Deputy Comptroller Richard C. Pawarski as those under consideration by Democratic leaders for the post vacated by Mark C. Poloncarz when he was elected county executive.
But Erie County Democratic Chairman Leonard R. Lenihan insists no decision has been made, pointing out that more interviews are scheduled for this evening by a search committee headed by John F. Malloy, former managing partner at the accounting firm Deloitte & Touche.
"George is seriously off on this, and I'm disappointed in him," Lenihan said late Tuesday. "We are far from making a decision."
But several sources in recent days are pointing to Shenk -- an Army veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan -- as the favorite. He is thought to be the front-runner for the Conservative Party nod too, since his late father was a longtime member of its executive committee.
Now Hasiotis says the process has produced the "appearance" of inevitability for Shenk.
"A lot of people, candidates as well as the eight screening committee members, have put their good faith into this," Hasiotis said. "An appearance has been created that the outcome is predetermined and that one candidate has the support of the county executive and county chairman."
Hasiotis went on to say he is prepared to name a campaign committee and start a treasury with donations of $20,000 and more to follow.
"As a candidate who is both serious and independent, I may need to work harder to claim those credentials," he said, "and I'm in that frame of mind."
Legislator Lynn M. Marinelli, D-Town of Tonawanda, said she expects the Democratic Party to play a role because the County Charter calls for appointment of someone of the same party as the previous comptroller.
"I prefer to work with someone who is independent and can work with the legislative and executive branches," she said, adding it is possible headquarters could submit more than one name for the Legislature's consideration.
Lenihan also said more than one recommendation is possible.
"I think they look to us to give them our input," he said. "I doubt we will give them five names, but I don't rule anything in or out."
-- Robert J. McCarthy