Artvoice: Buffalo's #1 Newsweekly
Home Blogs Web Features Events Weekly Features Classifieds Contact

Best and Brightest

Why so quiet?

That was fast. 

Just about a week ago, Erie County Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw hired a person named Jeff Bochiechio to be his new chief-of-staff. Mychajliw had famously pledged to hire only the “best and brightest” and specifically campaigned on a pledge to not just end, but root out, the “friends and family plan” of county hiring commonly referred to as patronage. 

Jeff Bochiechio may have been the best and brightest person to apply or submit a resume for the position of chief of staff – I don’t know. Frankly, I don’t think that it’s a bad thing for an elected official to surround himself with close friends and associates in some positions, because these are the people you know and trust to do a good job for you. Patronage isn’t always horrible. But compare: 

 So, Mr. Mychajliw has held himself to a higher standard, given his campaign pledges about eliminating patronage completely, which is why his former WGRZ colleagues so sharply questioned him on January 10th about this Bochiechio hire

According to Bochiechio’s resume and LinkedIn page, he began his career working for former Republican congressman Tom Reynolds, he was former County Executive Chris Collins chief fundraiser for three years, he says he ran Jane Corwin’s 2008 campaign for state assembly, and had a patronage position in Buffalo with Republicans in the state senate.

In defending his hiring of Boccheicio, Mychajliw points to the fact he’s a lawyer.

Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw: “My predecessors have hired a public relations person for that position of chief of staff where I have hired a public sector attorney with municipal experience and extensive experience e and state and local finance law and tax law and IDA law.” 

Scott Brown: “You say extensive experience, he worked for less than a year at a local law firm, he’s fresh out of law school where is his extensive experience?” 

Stefan Mychajliw: “In the same respect that Mark Poloncarz was a private sector attorney and served in the office of Erie County comptroller.”

Heh. Nice one, right? Except Mark Poloncarz was sworn in as a lawyer in 1998, and became Comptroller in 2006. That’s 8 years’ worth of experience doing corporate finance law at a big downtown firm; the comptroller should know that 8 is more than 1. Also – public sector attorney? Bochiechio’s LinkedIn page reveals only a brief stint with a private downtown firm. There is no evidence whatsoever of him having been a “public sector attorney”. 

But perhaps Bochiechio had special qualifications? For instance, he was a full-time law student at UB between 2008 – 2011, yet served as the New York State Senate’s “WNY Regional Director – Majority Operations” during his third year of law school.  According to SeeThroughNY, Bochiechio “earned” $49,154 in 2010, and a further $34,112 in 2011. That’s over $83,000 in taxpayer money for what is – if you’re also simultaneously attending law school – essentially a no-show job. 

Today, Bochiechio resigned abruptly as Channel 4 reported that he had pled guilty to DWI in Machias. He was arrested in October for blowing a .13 BAL – almost twice the legal limit. It’s unlikely that he’ll serve time in jail, but he will likely pay a fine, be on some sort of probation, have his license revoked for 6 months, and be required to have an ignition interlock device installed in his car. What kind of vetting took place to hire this young kid, about whom no one would be paying any attention if he was just working in the private sector? 

Scott Brown: “Most of his (Bochiechio’s) background in politics is as a fundraiser, will you used him to raise money for your campaign?” 

Stefan Mychajliw: “Certainly an option, I want to hired the best and brightest for this office and I also want to make sure that I have the best and brightest and most competent people when it comes to running for re-election this year.” 

Bochiechio’s position has a starting salary of $62,000 a year. 

This guy was hired because he’s got political experience running campaigns for Republicans, and because he’s well-connected. There’s nothing ostensibly wrong with that – indeed, it’d have been a smart hire, if he didn’t have the DWI. But when you make a big deal about rooting out patronage, you’re going to come under especial scrutiny about hiring friends, family, and the well-connected. This wasn’t just a hire violative of Mychajliw’s campaign pledge – it was poorly vetted, even for a patronage hack. 


  • BufChester

    What’s amazing to me is that someone, probably many people, in the world of GOP leadership must have known that the DWI arrest had taken place and that a verdict was going to be rendered in mid-January.  Why rush to make the appointment/announcement a week before the court date?  Was the guilty verdict a surprise?  Given the facts in the case it seems likely that they didn’t think he’d walk away with no conviction. Unless there was some sort of fix being worked on that fell apart at the last minute.

    Even the brain trust at the Erie County GOP must be smart enough to know that making an announcement about hiring a political hack to a position like Comptroller’s Chief of Staff a week before he’s going to be convicted of DWI isn’t a smart move. 

    If he were at the end of a long career as a public sector employee and just needed a few more weeks to fully vest his generous pension and socialized medical insurance policy it might make sense, but either this is an act of really mind blowing incompetence or there was a plan in place that went wrong at the 11th hours.

  • frankpgi

    My only comment is why does our Comptroller need a “chief of staff”. I thought we elected him to be the chief of staff of that office. If he needs a office manager then hire a office manager. I really dont care what other comptrollers had in their employ but come on chief of staff.  After speaking to others we all agree that lets leave title chief of staff to higher offices than Erie county Comptroller.

    • http://www.facebook.com/mikeinwny Michael Rebmann

       The Comptroller is our fiscal watchdog, there are few, if any, positions more important.

      • frankpgi

        Yes I agree is it a very important position. That is why we elected Stefan to this position. He should be the “chief of staff” not another person. Like I said if he needs a  office manager then hire one.

  • http://twitter.com/dorkulon heathenish

    Yeah, gee, I really thought this guy was the one politician in the western hemisphere who actually meant the shit he said to get elected. 

    • John (not McCain)

      You could tell he was a liar or an idiot when he said in his ads he would do something as Comptroller that the Comptroller does not have the power to do – eliminate patronage hires.

  • ObservationsUnlimited

    Was this the first alcohol related infraction against this person?  Did the braintrust leader know about (if there was) the previous?  DWI’s are big news–how was or WHO kept this out of media hands?   On the positive side, even though devastating today, there wasn’t an accident where someone died as a result of his driving under the influence–we can only hope he realizes how serious this is, how it can make or break his future, and gets the help he needs.   Maybe a gift to Mychajliw–sparing him the future embarassment of being foreced to defend the hiring an incompetent “best and brightest” political hack. 

  • http://twitter.com/MikePatRaleigh Michael Raleigh

    How does pleading guilty to a DWI make someone unfit to have a job? Are people who plead guilty to DWIs not supposed to have jobs? If so, we can add those thousands of people to our unemployed.

    The embarrassing part of this story should be that the guy had to resign.