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Politics & Patronage

It seems that patronage reigns again at County Hall. The latest casualty is Major Carlos Benitez, Retired, Director of Veterans Services. I have known Carlos for some time, before he became director. I have never seen an individual more dedicated to the welfare of fellow veterans. The pride he had serving the country in multiple tours overseas for 31 years, rising to the rank of major.

He couldn’t wait for the opportunity to serve as director and went into the position like the warrior he is, rolled up his selves, and went to work . It didn’t take long for Carlos to make friends of veteran groups and staff at the VA, working on veterans benefits so they would receive adequate compensation for disabilities received serving our country, organizing and attending countless outreach programs for veterans, and at times using personal funds to make things happen. All this while attending college to obtain a master’s degree.

The problem was Carlos had to go to make room for David Shenk, another veteran who lost his position as County Comptroller. David is a decorated veteran and a public servant. The problem ism Mr. Shenk is ill-equipped to handle this office. He lacks a certification to handle benefits—a certification that may take up to two years to obtain.

But that didn’t stop the 16th floor from making working conditions so hostile that Major Benitez had no choice but to resign. This is an insult to the veterans, who need service, and tp the Hispanic community, which lacks representation in upper management positions at the county.

Good soldier that he is, Carlos refuses to talk about the matter and presently wants to move on, hopefully in a position that allows him to work with veterans. Two days after he left County Hall, I got a phone call from Carlos: “Joe, I have a veteran that needs a place to live. Can you help?” That’s Carlos.

As with everything else in politics, a couple of weeks and all the controversy will be forgotten. But we will not forget the work of Major Carlos Benitez, our friend. The veterans of Western New York and I salute you for a job well done.

- Joseph Mascia, Veterans Voices of WNY

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