Skurka, Facing Dismissal, Takes Medical Leave
By Mike Hudson
City Engineer Jeffrey Skurka pre-empted his potential firing by Mayor Paul Dyster on Monday, stating he would be taking medical leave and announcing his plan to file a Workers Compensation claim against the city for job-related stress.
A copy of the letter, addressed to Dyster, was made available to the Niagara Falls Reporter.
“I will be taking a sick day today,” Skurka wrote. “I received a call late Friday afternoon before leaving the office and found the information to be quite credible and disturbing as it relates to the Lewiston Road project and the train station. I will also be following up with a confidential e-mail to you detailing the information that was provided to me.
“I will also be making an appointment with my doctor today and will be going on medical leave again. I will be filling for additional Workers Compensation because of the work related stress. Until there is a hearing and a determination made by the Workers Compensation Board I would like to use my vacation days until I return back to work.
“Should you have any questions and would like to discuss the subject please do not hesitate to call me.”
Skurka, the city’s only licensed engineer, claims Dyster pulled him off the Lewiston Road project for refusing to sanction what he said were illegal actions by contractors at the job site.
The botched Lewiston Road project, begun in 2009, has been a constant source of embarrassment for Dyster. Design errors, financial blunders, problems with radioactive waste and a lack of oversight by city officials have combined to create a disaster the mayor and his minions would just as soon forget about.
The single largest capital road project undertaken by Dyster during his first term in office, the road resurfacing was to have cost $7.7 million and taken 24 months to complete.
Four years and more than $11 million later, there is still no end in sight.
Interestingly, approval to go ahead with the project was given by Skurka’s predecessor, Ali Marzban, who Dyster brought to Niagara Falls as a part of his “best and brightest” campaign to enlist top administration officials from outside of Western New York.
After signing off on the Lewiston Road project, Marzban was dismissed when a series of articles in the Niagara Falls Reporter showed he was unlicensed and thus incapable of practicing engineering work anywhere in the United States, a fact that eluded Dyster during the vetting process.
The debacle typifies what can happen when the mayor is permitted to put one of his self-proclaimed “big ideas” into practice. Resurfacing a road built on radioactive waste is, after all, a different kettle of fish than emceeing a concert at the Hard Rock Cafe or quaffing homebrew at the Dyster-sponsored “Art of Beer” celebration.
In all likelihood, the Skurka-Dyster impasse will wind up in court, and city taxpayers will once again be saddled with paying for the mayor’s favorite law firm, Hodgson Russ, to undertake the impossible task of pulling Dyster’s fat from the fire once again.
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