|Grandinetti busily texting at a council meeting. “I am busy just now. Just let me know when it’s time to vote as Dyster wishes.”
Niagara Falls Councilmember Kristen Grandinetti’s rather harsh attack on Niagara Falls Library Director Michelle Petrazzoulo in a Niagara Gazette letter to the editor last week has political observers scratching their heads.
Aside from the fact that much of what Grandinetti wrote in her letter is factually wrong, it has those observers wondering what she hoped to accomplish by going after the library director who, by all reports, is doing a good job and minding her own business.
But then again, Grandinetti’s political career, short as it is with her service on the city council being the only office she has ever held, has been rather strange from the start.
Her campaign's claim to fame four years ago was that she was a political ally of Mayor Dyster. Experts said that was not enough to put her on the council, but those experts were wrong and she did win a council seat.
Once on the dais, she became mute except to mutter a few words of support and encouragement for Dyster. She was a big fan of Dyster’s European Holiday Market, actually saying she was "over the moon" about the Holiday Market, a dismal flop that wasted nearly a half-million dollars of taxpayer money, and she never met a Dyster project change order she didn’t approve.
She has never brought a single budget amendment to the table in four years, and we are hard pressed to find a resolution of any meaning that she wrote aside from feel-good community organization sorts of things.
A political dynamo she is not. Neither is she a shining example for female political candidates who may be tempted to look up to her as part of the Political Sisterhood.
The most attention Ms. Grandinetti has garnered over the past four years has been her now legendary “health insurance opt-out clerical error snafu.”
Last year she was caught receiving the health insurance opt-out payment in the cash amount intended for the health insurance family plan. Ms. Grandinetti is single, and was receiving way too much money (more than $5,000 too much) for declining city health insurance. She never said a word, city hall never caught the error until she had received a year’s worth of payments, and the Niagara Falls Reporter published her "mistake."
She then had to make arrangements to pay the money back to the city.
Last we heard, Mayor Dyster was letting her make good on the mistake through an installment plan: she is having her single health insurance opt-out payment adjusted to cover the amount owed from the past. That is quite generous of the mayor.
Why wasn’t she simply made to pay back what she owed in a lump sum? Mayor Dyster and Ms. Grandinetti never offered an explanation.
So now we have the issueless councilwoman attacking a perfectly good library director for two things: being paid too much and residing in Lewiston instead of the city.
First, Michelle Petrazzoulo is being paid what the library board has set as her salary. She didn’t steal the money. You would expect, as a supporter of Dyster, Ms. Grandinetti would have come to understand that often city government salaries have no rhyme or reason except when Dyster says they do.
Second, the library director is not bound by the city residency law that demands that city employees reside in the city. She mentions that Petrazzoulo has the residency waiver, but fails to understand that Petrazzoulo has broken no law by using that waiver.
In addition to the above two errors of understanding, Grandinetti doesn’t seem to be aware that city firemen also receive a residency waiver, courtesy of the state and can reside outside the city. Word to Grandinetti: city police officers do not receive the waiver, but firemen do.
So, while Grandinetti attacked the library director for reasons known only to herself, she did the attacking with inaccurate information and outright misinformation. She should be embarrassed to have put her name on the letter to the editor.
But knowing what we know of her political personality, sketchy as it is, if the health insurance opt-out scandal didn’t redden her face, this letter to the editor won’t cause her to blush with shame, either.
Grandinetti’s letter does point up the fact that to this day, as she approaches the end of her council term, she is still a candidate/politician in search of an issue with which to define herself. With the election around the corner, it’s certainly too late to become an issue candidate now.
She is going to enter the 2013 council election cycle as Dyster’s poodle, whose idea of good leadership is vilifying the local librarian and tossing rocks at the council majority.
That doesn’t make for an attractive council candidate, but it does make for a short political career.