By Harold McNeil
Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz has filled two of the three new administrative posts created through a reorganization of the Department of Social Services earlier this year.
Brian Bray, who had been the county executive's liason to the county Legislature, will serve in one of them. Bray's new job, which he has already posted on his LinkedIn page, is as special assistant to Social Services Commissioner Carol Dankert-Maurer. Exactly what will be his specific duties and his qualifications for the job were unclear Tuesday. Bray has previously served as public affairs officer at the Erie County Water Authority, deputy clerk of the Legislature and a senior legislative assistant for the Buffalo Common Council.
Over the summer, Poloncarz sought and eventually received authorization from the Legislature to create three new administrative posts, along with hiring six new Child Protective Services caseworker in the Department of Social Services. It was a requested move that became critically important following the September beating death of 5-year-old Eain Brooks, allegedly at the hands of his mother's boyfriend. Relatives of the slain boy have charged that CPS caseworkers ignored numerous previous complaints of abuse against Eain by Matthew W. Kuzdzal. DSS officials, in turn, complained that CPS was understaffed and its caseload overburdened.
When the requested reorganization came up for a vote in late September, the Legislature's Republican-aligned minority caucus favored hiring nine CPS caseworkers instead of six, and balked at the addition of three new administrative posts which, some had argued, would likely wind up being patronage hires.
Meanwhile, Poloncarz spokesman Mark Cornell confirmed Tuesday that he will, on an interim basis, fill Bray's old position as Legislative liason. Cornell will also continue in his current role as Poloncarz's director of policy and communications.
The other administrative post, second deputy to the commissioner of DSS, has been filled by Sharon Rochelle, who has a master’s degree of science in community and school health and is working on a second master’s degree in public administration. Rochelle also has experience working in child welfare programs at both the state and county level.
The remaining post, first deputy commissioner, is yet to be filled. Cornell said the job was offered to a candidate who later declined it after her current employer offered her a raise in salary. The administration continues to advertise and interview candidates for that position.