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Mayor Vince Anello received an unwelcome Labor Day surprise last week in the form of a $1.4 million lawsuit filed by 14 employees of the city's water and wastewater treatment plants.

At issue is a 1999 agreement between the city and members of the Steelworkers Union that guaranteed the workers employment with the city through 2015. The suit alleges that by divesting itself of the water and wastewater treatment plants, the city violated the contract.

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The establishment last November of an authority to run the two plants effectively terminated the workers' employment with the city. Furthermore, the suit alleges, the workers have not been permitted the opportunity to bid on jobs posted by the city.

Most of those jobs have been filled through Anello's "friends and family" hiring policy.

Noted Buffalo labor attorney Richard Wyssling is handling the case. Wyssling also represents six African-American Department of Public Works employees who are suing the city for discrimination and former City Clerk Cynthia Baxter, who is suing for discrimination and wrongful termination.

Wyssling will likely face off against attorneys from the high-priced Rochester firm of Underberg and Kessler, hired by Anello in June to handle labor issues on behalf of the city.

In office just eight months, Anello has already done much to alienate two of his core constituencies -- union workers and the African-American community. He's aped the policies of his predecessor, Irene Elia, despite being an outspoken critic of those policies prior to his election.

A pretty neat trick, but Anello has shown himself to be a wily trickster. It's people like him who give politicians a bad name.

Anello's Machiavellian mendacity -- look it up, Vince -- seems to know no bounds. On a wide range of issues, from the golf course giveaway to metered parking to the need for hiring out-of-town attorneys to abiding by negotiated contracts, Anello has spoken from both sides of his mouth.

So here we go again. With a compliant City Council that has for the most part acted as little more than a rubber stamp for his every whim, and a daily newspaper so cowed that it turns over half its front page every Monday to let him say whatever he wants, it's unlikely Anello will be called to account for his shenanigans much before he runs for re-election in 2007.

Until then, we here at the Reporter will do our best to keep you informed.


Niagara Falls Reporter www.niagarafallsreporter.com Sept. 7 2004