National fuel, a fox in the chicken coop?
Erie Executive Chris Collins appointed a National Fuel executive vice president, Jeffery F. Hart, as his top deputy while an Editorial in Buffalo News Friday described it as “very public-spirited” “that speaks well” of the company.
But Erie County Legislator Maria R. Whyte of Buffalo, saw it differently “…the fox guarding the hen-house,” in the Buffalo News.
Also, Whyte wants to know exactly how Hart is ” going to excuse himself from National Fuel matters…” in his new role as the fox in the chicken coop?
Hart will guard and oversee the chickens in the coop in the Erie County Departments of Health, Public Works and Social Services while still employed as an executive of National Fuel.
National Fuel is a major vendor of Public Works and obtains money from the Home Energy Assistance Program–HEAP administered through the Social Services while the company pays one of the heftier property taxes to Erie County government.
Although the Ethics Code in the county forbids the fox from getting into the hen house , Hart is suppose to abstain from signing contracts that might affect National Fuel business with Erie County.
He’ll just flap over to Collins each time it involves National Fuel and just let the County Executive sign off on the contracts though most of his job involves contracts one wonders why Collins picks someone unable to fulfill a basic job function.
In this way, as an employee he is not “collecting compensation from entities with county business the employee can affect” as stipulated in the County Code of Ethics.
He’ll give his $107, 400 Erie County Deputy executive salary to charity, allowing the fox to enjoy a chicken through his income tax deduction but just a bit though even a morsel helps the assistant vice president, a 25-year veteran of National Fuel that Collins tapped in his effort to run county government like a business.
So gung-ho is Collins about running the county as a business that the deputy job has had a turn-over rate of about three or four other people serving in it since his tenure as county executive.
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