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Hamister Gives Grandinetti $1,000; Payment For Services Rendered?

By Mike Hudson

Mark Hamister likes to pay for a lady's help.

No member of Niagara Falls city government was more outspoken in support of the Mark Hamister hotel deal than Councilwoman Kristen Grandinetti.

In newspaper op-eds, she savagely attacked Councilman Sam Fruscione for his reservations about the Hamister deal, in which Hamister will get a key piece of downtown property appraised at $1.5million for a measly $100,000 and also receive millions of dollars in tax credits and other taxpayer-funded benefits.

On July 6, Grandinetti published a column in the Niagara Gazette titled, “Irresponsible ignorance from city council majority.”

“Fruscione, Anderson, and Choolokian want to continue to build a wall of bad press, embarrassment and patronage around this city,” Grandinetti wrote. “Apparently, they have taken a cue from their political mentor, Sen. George Maziarz.”

And there was more.

“The council majority will continue to criticize, and try block funding and positive development from Niagara Falls unless they can take credit for it,” she added. “They will use nostalgia and smoke and mirrors to remind you of easier times, and tell you that their political opponents are to blame for all our problems. All the while, Fruscione, Anderson, and Choolokian continue to build a voting record, and a library of quotes that are holding our city back.”

Well, never let it be said that Mark Hamister is cheap when it comes to paying underlings for services rendered. Grandinetti filed her 11-day, pre-election financial disclosure report with the Niagara County Board of Elections last week and -- in among the usual $25 and $50 contributions that are par for the course in City Council elections -- one contribution stood out: a $1,000 gift from Mark Hamister himself.

In a town like Niagara Falls, where political corruption is a time honored tradition, where mayors, city councilmen and other officials have been indicted, convicted and imprisoned, it seems fair to ask whether Hamister’s payment constituted a quid pro quo to the councilwoman in return for her vociferous support of his heavily taxpayer funded hotel project.

This is not the first time that the ethically challenged Grandinetti has found herself being criticized for taking money. In 2011, she was forced to pay back thousands of dollars she wrongly received for opting out of the city’s health insurance program.

A school teacher, Grandinetti receives health insurance from the Niagara Falls City School District. She is single, with no dependents, but was listed on the city insurance forms as being married.

While she should have received opt-out payments totaling $3,527, she collected $9,713.

"I was very surprised when I found out about it," Grandinetti told the Buffalo News after the Niagara Falls Reporter broke the story. "I'm upset and concerned that people would think I would do something like this purposely."

Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster, a Grandinetti ally, said the councilwoman should be given the benefit of the doubt and swept the matter under the rug.

Grandinetti asked us to believe she didn’t know she was collecting $6,000 more than she was entitled to in 2011 and, in 2013, she’s asking us to believe she’s not the best member of the City Council money can buy.



Niagara Falls Reporter - Publisher Frank Parlato Jr. www.niagarafallsreporter.com

OCT 29, 2013