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The Sins of the Father

On Wednesday morning, in the matter of filling the vacancy in the South District seat previously occupied by Mickey Kearns, Buffalo’s Common Council completed its embarrassment by appointing to the seat a fellow whose only qualification for the position seems to be his last name.

The five members of the majority coalition, nominally led by Council President Rich Fontana, voted to give the seat to Chris Scanlon, a bartender who is currently working on a bachelor’s degree in business administration. He is the sone of John “Scanoots” Scanlon, one of the top operatives in the late Jimmy Griffin’s political machine.

You may not have heard much about John Scanlon in a while, so here are a couple refreshers. Jim Heaney of the Buffalo News opened a piece about him in 1992 with these lines:

He has a full-time city job as a watchman but calls in sick on average once a week—frequently Mondays and Fridays and the day before holidays and vacations.

He has a city car for round-the-clock use—and is supposed to pay taxes on it, but doesn’t.

And he has every adult in his immediate family on the city payroll.

And in 1998, the News’s Mike Beebe chimed in with this opener to a piece on Scanlon:

John P. “Scanoots” Scanlon, like the lyrics from that old Cole Porter song, is there night and day, beneath the moon and under the sun.

On the job, that is.

By night, Scanlon is a parts clerk in the city’s Broadway Garage.

By day, he runs County Legislator Michael A. Fitzpatrick’s new district office in South Buffalo.

Scanlon, who for years was Mayor James D. Griffin’s campaign strategist and patronage dispenser, has a schedule that would tire out people half his age. He will turn 60 in August.

He starts the day at 8:30 a.m., working in Fitzpatrick’s district office in the South Buffalo Community Development Association center. He works through lunch and finishes up at 4:30 p.m.

At 10 p.m., he’s due at the city garage, where he works until 4:30 a.m.

Four hours later, he’s back on the job for Fitzpatrick. Then back with the city. And then again with the county and so on.

His time sheets show that he works 80 hours a week Monday through Friday in his city and county jobs. He works holidays for the city, picking up extra pay. On five of the last 10 weekends, he has worked overtime on his city job. One weekend, he worked both Saturday and Sunday.

Scanlon has said he plans to run to retain the seat to which he was appointed this fall. He certainly will face Matt Fisher, a former aide to Kearns who won the support of the South Buffalo Democratic Party committee, but who could only win the votes of four councilmen. He may also face Patrick Burke, a bartender who already has his college degree, and who had this to say about Scanlon’s appointment:

The nepotism is blinding. When I met with the council members individually, some in the majority wanted assurance that I would vote in step with them (which I of course refused to do). Makes me wonder what Chris promised to do for them.

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