Now that the Dyster administration appears to be under federal investigation over the Dyster-Liberale demolition scandal, it might be instructive to look back at Mayor Paul Dyster's handling of the arrest of Clarence Bradley and the enforced leave of Guy Bax.
Bradley, the deputy director of the city's Clean Neighborhood Program, or ZOOM, was alleged to have illegally collected $3,200 in unemployment benefits, and was charged with third-degree grand larceny and filing a false instrument.
A State Police detective arrested Bradley at City Hall, oddly enough in the office of Dyster's city administrator, Donna Owens, with Dyster present naturally.
The Reporter gave readers the inside details on the arrest -- that it was arranged as a photo-op for Dyster, that he and Owens lured not only Bradley to City Hall for his surprise arrest, but also TV cameras and news reporters.
Actually, Bradley could have been arrested on the work site. He could have been arrested at home. He could have been issued an appearance ticket, which most alleged similar offenders are permitted to receive and which would have been more appropriate.
Last year, the state prosecuted about 900 individuals with felony charges for falsifying unemployment paperwork. In most cases, the accused did get appearance tickets. Judy White-Hamilton, for instance, a council member in Canandaigua, accused of the same crime as Bradley, for about the same amount of money, was permitted to turn herself in, which she did on Nov. 3, 2010, at 7 p.m. in the evening.
Bradley told the Reporter that the State Police had planned to give him an appearance ticket, but Dyster and his normally more amorous corporation counsel, Craig Johnson, tried to insist on getting the detective to handcuff Bradley.
Dyster complained that the media was there -- he had promised an arrest and, after all, handcuffs look good for television. State Police led Bradley away -- but without handcuffs.
With a good job and a prominent position in the community, Bradley -- who was rushed to Mount St. Mary's Hospital with low blood sugar, a symptom of severe diabetes -- subsequently exhausted his sick and personal leave. He seems believable when he says he thought he was eligible for unemployment during the brief time he collected it.
Only a stinker like Dyster would set a man up for a publicity stunt like this one. A valuable and worthy city employee, Bradley could have been notified there was a problem. After all, for anyone to get unemployment, the employer must initially approve it. The city approved Bradley's unemployment. It was no secret to the city when he worked and did not work.
Why didn't Dyster ask Bradley to explain, rather than surprise him with police and TV cameras? Only a scumbag would level a man -- make him look guilty without a presumption of innocence -- like Dyster did to Bradley, and before that, Guy Bax, an honest man who worked for decades for the city, never charged with anything, his reputation tarnished by a self-serving politician by the ugly name of Paul Dyster.
As readers recall, when the FBI raided city hall on July 17, 2009, to get certain records from Bax's Inspections Department, it shocked some to learn that the media had been invited to witness the raid.
For his role, Dyster did not defend or even ask for a presumption of innocence. He did not deign to allow the FBI to come in and do their job without fanfare. He had his secretary copy the search warrant and supporting documentation, called media outlets, then gleefully handed documents over to reporters when they arrived.
Then tried to take credit.
Dyster told the press, "We're draining the swamp and when you drain the swamp, you get to see the alligators."
Notice he said "we're," as if he and the FBI were doing it jointly.
Then, condemning Bax as if he were guilty without a trial, Dyster added, "The way I would look at it, ya know, we're draining the swamp. When you drain the swamp, it gets easier to see the alligators. Then as you drain the swamp, you find more alligators. You get rid of those alligators, you keep draining the swamp, you'll probably find some more alligators."
Alligators, as readers know, spend much of their lives effectively pretending they are a log near water. They wait motionless for hours until some prey comes by. Then they spring and eat it.
Dyster pounced on the FBI raid when he announced he was putting Bax and inspectors Peter Butry and George Amendola on paid administrative leave. The mayor stripped these men of their positions -- based on, he said, the "serious nature of allegations contained" in search warrant papers. Alligators don't wait for trials to seize their prey.
Which brings us back to Bradley. A city employee, accused of filing a false unemployment claim, is turned over to the police -- with all the fanfare usually saved to celebrate the arrest of a serial killer or reputed New York City mobster -- by Dyster and City Administrator Donna Owens.
Did Dyster ever try to hear Bradley's side of the story before rushing to get his face in the newspaper and TV? Does this mean any city employee who faces criminal charges can look forward to being lured to Donna Owens' office for arrest, courtesy of Mayor Dyster?
Since taking her city job at $110,000 ($160,000 with benefits), Owens has forced city employees to wear nametags, forced a uniformed city police officer to sit outside her office to protect the timid mayor and herself, and installed security cameras inside and outside City Hall.
And now she and Dyster are playing cops and robbers on taxpayer time, posing for television cameras as "arrests" are made. And people are fired on mere pretenses, like Bax. Bradley was put on unpaid leave.
Sometimes the shoe, however, goes happily on the other foot. There may soon be a federal investigation into the new Dyster-reorganized Code Enforcement Department -- headed by Dyster's handpicked man Dennis Virtuoso -- an investigation that may lead to Dyster himself.
"I don't think we're done with weeding out corruption in the city of Niagara Falls," Dyster said prophetically in 2009.
The swamp is draining. It may reveal a heartless and vicious reptile corrupt as any mayor ever seen in handcuffs, led out of any dirty swamp of any town, a true alligator at heart.
Will Dyster one day soon perhaps arrange his own arrest in Donna Owens' office and call the press to attend?
|Niagara Falls Reporter||www.niagarafallsreporter.com||May 3, 2011|