Jack Quinn, the former congressman and Hamburg supervisor who has been president of Erie Community College since 2008, didn't seem too rattled last week when fellow Republican John Mills, chairman of the Erie County Legislature, publicly criticized ECC for not telling lawmakers about the college's plan to work with the city on the development of a parcel near the city's main campus.
The development story was reported in the Buffalo News the day before last week's hearing in front of the legislature's Enrichment Committee on ECC, and county lawmakers hadn't heard a word about from the Quinn team at ECC.
Quinn, who is president of a college on very shaky financial ground with many questions surrounding his leadership, shrugged off the public spanking by Mills, responding that ECC is not really committed to doing anything in the redevelopment of the Ellicott St. property despite the newspaper story.
In short, Quinn seemed unfazed or unmoved by the criticism that lawmakers were "blindsided" by the news story, and stayed on course--along with his loyal assistants and Board Chairman Steve Boyd-- that ECC will recover from its current financial crisis despite depletion of its reserves, tuition increases, and declining enrollment.
And Quinn, a Republican, will not get any more grilling from the GOP-controlled legislature which is expected to pass the Democratic county executive's recommended ECC budget subsidy next week without any changes, leaving any serious budgetary help to the school---like an increase in the county subsidy---not likely until at least the next county budget cycle.
That's a big win for Quinn who many see as part of the ongoing problems at ECC because of his off-campus business interests that include memberships on three national boards, one of which pays him $140,000 and which will require his presence in California for two weeks in late August, just before the new school year begins, according to school sources.
So Quinn escaped unscathed at the Enrichment Committee hearing despite some criticism on "blindsiding" lawmakers on the property deal, and Committee Chairman Kevin Hardwick, a strong voice for developing a long-term recovery plan for ECC, has indicated the legislature is likely to approve the budget recommended by Democratic County Executive Mark Poloncarz which does little to help the college meet its financial needs.
In a way, it looks like Republicans have got Poloncarz right where they want him in this, an election year, when it comes to ECC. If Poloncarz's 2016 county budget plan (due in October) fails to help ECC's financial recovery and stem the decline, the GOP candidate for county executive (Ray Walter) could certainly tee up Poloncarz for failing ECC at a time when local development needs workforce help, not a school on the rocks.
No matter what happens, it looks like Quinn, the political pro that he is who controls the ECC Board of Trustees even to the point of keeping many of them in the dark about his bid to head the Buffalo Partnership a couple of years ago that came up short, continues to pick up his $192,500 salary from the school, travel around the country on his other gigs, and leave the heavy lifting at the college to his legal adviser, Kristin Klein Wheaton, when he's not around.
About the only thing Quinn has given up in recent months is his membership to the exclusive Buffalo Club, paid for by ECC, through the first six years of his presidency. It could be Jack Quinn has the best public job in town with one of the biggest salaries and the freedom to come and go as he pleases. All this even as the school's biggest union continues in contract negotiations (no contract since 2009) and ECC's financial picture gets darker by the day.