Annette Junciewicz, the former ED of the Polish Community Center, (PCC) and wife of Legislator Gregory Olma was escorted out of the Erie County Water Authority today, when her department of one - herself - was eliminated from the 2001 budget.
Junciewicz left the PCC last year, partly because of criticism that her husband Olma was funneling most of his member item money into an organization headed by her. Her work at the PCC, which many say was well intended, was spoiled by her husband’s politics. For instance, in 1999, a maelstrom of controversy erupted over the disemboweling of the Neighborhood Information Center so that county funds could be diverted by Olma to the PCC and which resulted in the community’s senior services losing its only Polish translator.
To find his wife a safe haven, Olma engineered a deal with democratic party boss Steve Pigeon to get Annette a non political, civil service job at the water authority. The much reported "deal" that Olma made with Pigeon was that, in return for Olma getting his wife the $60,000 plus job at the authority, Olma would support Pigeon for commissioner of the Water Authority. Junciewicz was indeed hired, and a department created for her to run. But, when it came time to support Pigeon, Olma shifted allegiance to Joel Giambra (who, in turn, provided some important patronage positions for Olma’s friends. Olma believed, of course, that he could betray Pigeon with impunity, since his wife was already hired, and could not be touched, since she was a civil service employee) Then Olma proceeded to fight Pigeon tooth and nail, being the leading force and pivotal vote behind the movement to keep Pigeon off the authority board.
However, in a pitched battle between Giambra and Pigeon, a fascinating study of two master politicians- for, literally, control of the water authority, Pigeon, through what Pigeon does best, infighting, prevailed. (You can never underestimate this man, by the way, no matter what the odds.)
Of course, Pigeon is a realist. "They've been downsizing at the water authority. and since (Olma) used his political influence to get her a job and then screwed everybody that went to bat for him, it is not surprising that when the authority downsized, unnecessary positions were be cut" he said.
Remember too that the department was likely created or preserved simply to provide her with a job.
It is not unlikely that Olma now will go to Giambra to find Annette a patronage job.... And this, I have to editorialize, is somewhat sad. Annette Junciewicz is a woman I have met; she is a talented woman, way above average. She is a kind woman, a considerate woman. She is intelligent, a diplomat (ironic since Greg is so divisive) and generally everywhere she goes, a force for good. Everyone of Greg’s many detractors who know both of them, and were formerly his friends, all say the same thing. One attorney friend, goes into raptures about her, "Annette is a Saint, a saint!" This, however, is, unfortunately, offset by her husband who puts her in political positions for his own interests, time and time again. There is little doubt that she can find a place in the Giambra administration, if she wants, but one almost hopes that this very talented woman will try to find work entirely independent from her husband, where her real talent will shine, undimmed by the cloud of controversy that always casts it long shadow on whatever her husband touches - whether it be the Broadway Market, the PCC, EBCOP, Mickey’s, The Broadway Fillmore NHS, or the Water Authority.
Olma, unfortunately brings patronage to new levels, and whether that is for his wife, or Olma’s brother - who also lost his politically arranged job just yesterday, or his attorney who kept her county position by a bizarre back door, (betrayal), deals are always in the offing with Olma, and the result is not better government....