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Maziar, Anello FOIL Dyster spending

Niagara Falls Repoerter

April 03, 2012

By Frank Parlato Jr.

Niagara Falls Controller Maria Brown has been receiving a lot of FOILs lately.

All are requesting costs and budgets.

The spending spree of Mayor Paul Dyster is finally under review.

On Feb. 24, state Sen. George Maziarz wrote to Brown and requested an explanation/breakout of all casino expenditures and details of project "change orders."

Why did he do this?

Maziarz recently had wanted funds for NIMAC (the committee that lobbies to keep the Air Base open), and Dyster dragged his feet while Brown said there was no money for NIMAC.

A surprised Maziarz fired off a letter asking Brown where all the casino money went.

Brown answered his letter on March 2, saying the information he sought was enclosed, in part, with more information to come through the Engineering Department.

She sent him a follow-up e-mail on March 5, most respectfully saying that she was working on all the engineering data for him.

On March 1, former mayor Vince Anello FOILed for casino revenue, NYPA settlement and Greenway funds details.

Where did all that money go?

On March 5, Brown sent that information to Anello -- most respectfully and helpfully.

Two weeks ago, the Niagara Falls Reporter made extensive FOIL requests that were answered in part. In the 56-page FOIL already obtained is a record of unprecedented spending and arguable waste.

Have these FOILs shaken Dyster?

The word is out that "something is going on ... what's all the foiling about? ... What's Maziarz's problem?"

Is Maziarz on the trail of Dyster?

Maziarz, in his letter to Brown, pointed out he was surprised that Brown, at a recent Council meeting, blamed "change orders" on various city projects that raised the final prices of projects, as the cause of much of the city's financial problems.

For the Dyster administration, "change orders" by contractors doing business with the city are standard operating procedure, where the Council is told one price for a project and they approve the expenditure. Then change orders come in the back door, mid-project, and raise the price dramatically. Almost invariably, the contractor is a Dyster campaign contributor.

Should Maziarz determine to investigate, he will probably go straight at the courthouse project, built at the beginning of Dyster's first term.

Maziarz has repeatedly called the courthouse a $22 million building that cost taxpayers $50 million.

Dyster presided over the courthouse construction after he fired then-city engineer Bob Curtis on day one of his administration. Some have speculated Curtis was fired and the city left without an engineer simply because he was outspokenly critical of the developer, CLP 3 LLC, with members, particularly financier Gary Coscia, who were substantial Dyster campaign contributors.

Curtis promised when he was city engineer under Anello that he would monitor the forthcoming construction carefully and prevent the change-order game from duping taxpayers of this city.

Curtis was fired. The courthouse construction began days later.

Amazingly, Dyster allowed the developers to build a $45 million courthouse without a city engineer to monitor the work.

After months when the developer was allowed to monitor his own work, and when costs, through change orders, brought the price dramatically upward, Dyster hired another campaign contributor, LiRo Engineering of Buffalo, and paid them $356,000 to monitor the courthouse.

Curtis would have, along withÊhis normal engineering duties, monitored the courthouse and would have been paid $68,000 annually.

All told, more than 200 change orders were approved, and the cost raised by millions.

It would have been even more, but change orders downgrading materials helped the developers keep the same price on certain aspects of the job, while reducing the quality of materials.

Dyster did not hire a city engineer until after the courthouse was finished, one year and four months into his administration.

Dyster campaign contributors both built the courthouse and inspected the work.

The project came in millions over budget.

Taxpayers got a significantly lower-quality building than what the city contracted for at a higher price.

As of today, Maziarz has his nose in the proverbial tent.

The smell may not be savory.

Meantime, some of Dyster's allies are apparently turning -- behind the scenes, behind his back -- on Dyster, in preparation perhaps of bad press, a possible audit, and in time perhaps a control board, in spite of the fact that some of these same people helped spend the cash and handled the agreements for that spending in the first place.

There is serious momentum building with the FOILs, especially with Maziarz. Redistricting makes him officially what he has been unofficially for years -- the state Senate's representative for Niagara Falls, and for the first time campaigning in this city.

The Niagara Falls Reporter has consistently reported on the waste and the self-serving plan by Dyster to reward his campaign contributors with millions of wasteful, useless expenditures involving millions of casino money.

Now almost everyone, even the Council, is catching on.

The city is out of money after blowing through tens of millions in casino funds.

Where did it all go?

How much of it went to Dyster campaign contributors?

As the FOILs come through, and more are requested, there will be more information to follow.

And one of the least transparent mayors ever -- Dyster -- will become exposed to sunlight.

Hope he won't get sunburned.



  Copyright © 2008 Frank Parlato Jr.