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Joanie ignores ex-commissioners’ advice

— Many people consider unrequested advice paternalistic and patronizing and as a result they not only ignore it, they’re actually offended by it.

That’s how County Executive Joanie Mahoney reacted to the unsolicited advice offered in November by the three ex-commissioners of Onondaga County Parks.

Still “dismayed” by Mahoney’s 2009 appointment of her cousin, Bill Lansley, as parks commissioner, the three former parks czars wrote the county exec an open letter. They pleaded with her to appoint someone with real parks experience as deputy commissioners.

“We implore the county executive to conduct a professional search, locally and statewide, to bring forth what we know would be scores of qualified parks professionals interested in this position,” wrote Bob Geraci, Jim Johst and Gary MacLachlan, each of whom had helmed county parks in the past.

Mahoney may have found the former commissioners’ advice paternalistic but what she called it was “petty.”

The ex-parks leaders were concerned that they deputy commissioner position would be filled by “a political friend or relative,” as was the top job. That, the former commissioners wrote, “would be an insult to this department.”

On Jan. 3, Mahoney added insult to injury by appointing her communications director, Marty Skahen, as deputy commissioner of parks and recreation at a salary of nearly $85,000. That’s about $10,000 a year more than he earned in the county executive’s office.

A graduate of Le Moyne College and Syracuse University’s Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs where he majored in business and health services, Skahen has no background whatsoever in parks management. His wife, Kate, however, worked for county parks as an administrative director from 2006 to 2009. The Skahens live in DeWitt.

Marty Skahen knows more about the Beltway than he does about Beaver Lake. He worked for five years for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. He took a break in 2004 to coordinate media operation for President George W. Bush’s re-election campaign and inauguration, then worked as an assistant to HUD Deputy Secretary Roy Bernardi, a former Syracuse mayor.

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