Lockport Town GOP Chair Appointed Niagara County Employment and Training Director

It’s how the game is played, and not just in Niagara County.

The Republican Chairman of the Town of Lockport, Donald J. Jablonski Jr., 58, is to become Niagara County’s new employment and training director at a salary of $61,807.

Employment and Training is a county department that administers job training programs funded with federal taxpayers’ money.

Most recently, Jablonski had been earning $46,869 a year as fiscal director of the county Office for the Aging.

According to county sources, Jablonski has moved up in esteem and job prowess during the last few years as Republican leaders who control the Niagara County Legislature sought to reward the local town GOP chairman with work suitable to his prodigious talents.

As a department head, Jablonski’s position is strictly an appointed one and exempt from civil service protections and the requirement of taking a civil service exam.

Tracing some of Jablonski’s meteoric career, the Reporter learned from sources that Republicans hired Jablonski as the county’s Transportation Coordinator, a post which he held admirably until he was required by law to take the civil service test, which he unfortunately failed.

Being legally unable to remain in that position, county Republicans hired Jablonski to be the county’s Fiscal Coordinator for the Office of the Aging, a post which he held admirably until he took the required civil service test which he also, unfortunately, failed.

Being legally unable to continue in that post, according to our sources, county Republicans decided to appoint him to a position which does not require a civil service test.

“Some people just don’t test well,” said one county Republican who asked that his name not being mentioned in this story. ”But that doesn’t mean Don Jablonski doesn’t have common sense and hard work ethic. There are people who pass the test but have no common sense. Don has savvy and acumen.”

Many Republicans praised his political skills, saying that Jablonski works by day for the people of Niagara County and by night to get Republicans elected in the Town of Lockport so they can serve the people of Niagara by day.

Jablonski’s new position was affirmed by the Republican-controlled Niagara County Legislature after a recommendation by Richard E. Updegrove, who took over as county manager this March.

Updegrove, a lawyer, is a Town of Lockport Republican who was the county legislature’s Republican majority leader for eight years.

In July 2014, Updegrove surprised many when he announced he would suddenly leave the part-time legislature just after Republican operatives, under Jablonski’s direction, had finished going door-to-door getting voters to sign Updegrove’s nominating petitions and collecting enough signatures for him to be on the ballot.

As soon as Jablonski’s team filed the nominating petition for Updegrove, he told the Board of Elections he was not going to seek reelection to his seventh term. Then he announced to the public that his work as an attorney with his Buffalo law firm, Spadafora & Verrastro, didn’t leave him enough time for politics.

“This was a decision I made very recently,” Updegrove said at the time.

Within three days, the committee for vacancies, guided by Jablonski, chose William J. Collins, a Lockport accountant, to run as the Republican candidate replacing Updegrove.

How surprised either Collins or Jablonski were at Updegrove’s surprise retirement is unknown but they took on the task and Collins won.

Because Updegrove was considered a shoe-in for reelection, no one entered the race to oppose him. Had they known Updegrove was not going to run, several Republican candidates might have considered a candidacy.

At the time, Minority Leader Dennis F. Virtuoso, D-Niagara Falls, said he didn’t buy the story that Updegrove made a sudden decision, but had planned this in advance, and kept it from the public to discourage others in order to help Jablonski pick the next legislator, instead of having a wide open primary and letting the public decide.

“It’s just the same old game they play,” Virtuoso told the Buffalo News, “…They put in the petition and then they decline. It’s kind of hard to believe they didn’t know.”

Few, however, were surprised when Updegrove suddenly found time to be full time county manager at a salary of $116,000 per year, one year and eight months later.

Both Updegrove and Collins supported Jablonski’s appointment to his new county position, much like Jablonski aided Updegrove and Collins in their campaigns for county legislator.

Jablonski did not return a call for comment.

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