Niagara Falls Reporter
Home | Archive / Search
DEC 09 - DEC 17, 2014

DeSantis Backstabs in Quest for Stipend and New Position

By Frank Parlato

December 09, 2014

Thomas DeSantis to council: give me what I want and no one gets hurt!

Niagara Falls - Thomas J. DeSantis, the city's senior planner, wrote a two-page memo to the city council last week that provides a unique window into how city hall operates.

In his memo, DeSantis, a city employee for more than 20 years, who, in 2012, performed over $35,000 in kitchen remodeling at his LaSalle home with no city building permits and was subsequently exposed by the Reporter for violating city code enforcement laws - and fined accordingly - is now asking to be named "acting director" of Planning and Economic Development," a new position which would merge control of both departments under one man --DeSantis.

In his memo, DeSantis, who is a high school buddy, longtime friend, and confidante to Mayor Paul A. Dyster, as well as an adjunct professor of planning at UB, denigrates a co-worker, gives a lukewarm recommendation for a retire-rehire arrangement for a second employee, and asks for a stipend for himself, leaving the amount open-ended.

Previous stipends in the Dyster administration range from $4,000 to more than $10,000 per year.

In DeSantis' case his stipend, if approved, would be added to his $70,000 annual salary. Since, DeSantis is a union employee, if his new duties require him to work more than the standard 35-hour union work week, he can double dip - getting both stipend and overtime for the same work.

Normally this would not be allowed since directors of departments are supposed to be "exempt" as part of management, and therefore not in the union. This separation of union and management is done because union and management can be in conflict. If there is a conflict between the union, and the mayor and other management, where does the head of a department who is also in the union owe his loyalties?

Secondly, the head of a department, who is normally exempt, since he is part of management - cannot collect overtime. But, if he is member of the union and head of a department, he can determine (as management) the work load and assign it -- to himself -- and (as a union member), he can do the work, work longer if need be, and collect overtime.

The acting department head scheme is so rife with conflict that New York State Civil Service law calls for a department head who is in the union to be "acting" for no more than one year absent a waiver. In Niagara Falls, however, the law is ignored and waivers are typically sought, and signed by management, year after year.

Acting Code Enforcement Director Dennis Virtuoso, and Acting City Controller Maria Brown, while heads of their departments, are not directors - but acting directors, which permit them to remain in the union while having management duties and the ability to collect overtime. Virtuoso has assigned himself overtime bringing his $75,000 salary to more than $96,000 per year. Brown, the highest paid city hall employee, with salary and stipends totaling more than $105,000 per year, has not put in for overtime recently.

Brown and Virtuoso have been acting directors for 16 years and five years respectively.

DeSantis, while not technically Acting Director of the Department of Planning, has, for more than a decade, been the unofficial director. His title is senior planner, a union position, supposedly under the direction of a (non-union) Director of Planning. Various mayors have, for unspecified reasons, declined to fill the Director of Planning position, allowing DeSantis to be both in the union and the de-facto director of planning, which in turn has allowed DeSantis to make his own hours, determine his own overtime and trade it for comp time which permits him to take time off to teach at UB.

In his memo last week, DeSantis makes it clear he is the right man for what he hopes will be a newly created position putting planning and economic development under his control - with a merged position of Acting Director of both departments.

To persuade the council, DeSantis disparages a potential competitor -- city employee Thomas Tedesco, who is currently the Renewal Community Coordinator for the Department of Economic Development. DeSantis writes that "Mr. Tedesco's current position is an anachronism. The (his job) title is meaningless… Mr. Tedesco does have experience, but is the least skilled individual and not (in my opinion) a good candidate to advance to a position that requires greater skill and expertise and greater responsibilities."

DeSantis goes on to write that, instead of promoting Tedesco, he should have his current position re-categorized to "more of an administrative assistant."

DeSantis, the father of the city's train station, inventor of the city's Underground Railroad Interpretive Center and its concocted "history," supporter of the Wendel Engineering Company's call for a $350,000 "re-bid" of the train station, co-author of the mayor's $275,000 park study and creator of the Jayne Park canoe launch plan, also assessed another economic development department employee, Joseph Collura.

Collura is the City's "Economic Development Professional" (yes, that is actually his job title). He was evaluated by DeSantis in his memo: "Mr. Collura, while not the most outgoing individual, does have the most experience."

While knocking him for his people skills, which might disqualify Collura for a top position in economic development, where one has to deal with developers and other moneyed people, DeSantis admits Collura has experience to justify supporting Collura's own plans to retire on Dec. 31, if he can be rehired (on Jan 1) at a part time pay of $26,000.

Collura, in turn, without saying what he thinks of DeSantis' people skills, seems to support DeSantis' takeover of economic development, as long as he can get a part time job he seeks.

In an email, obtained by the Reporter, dated Nov. 25, Collura wrote to the recording secretary of the NFC, Gail Bimont, that he wanted to retire and then "get my job back into the department now as a part time salary," with "another union member Tom (DeSantis), now left in charge".

City hall sources in Human Resources and Finance Departments tell the Reporter why this makes sense for Collura. Collura earns a $72,000 salary. If he retires by Dec 31, he would collect an annual pension of about $58,000 and, in addition, qualify to get the $20,000 Dyster "retirement incentive." The Dyster administration invited 60 union employees to retire early and get a $20,000 bonus spread across five years.

If Collura is rehired the day after he retires - at $26,000 for part time work - Collura would receive $16,000 more than he is making ($88,000) and work part time.

Included in the DeSantis memo is criticism of Dyster's budget, possibly meant to guide the council to realize that DeSantis' solution is the best option.

DeSantis writes, "the notion of downsizing as proposed by the Mayor's budget will not be very workable or productive…. Under the Mayor's budget, the department would loose (sic) two high skilled positions."

The Reporter finds it peculiar that this confidante to Dyster has chosen to float his plan for a new job title and accompanying stipend to the council, rather than the mayor.

Is there trouble in the proverbial hen house between planner and mayor?

Lastly, the Reporter wrote, on Nov 11, in a story entitled "Does Dyster Incentive Have 'Retire-Rehire' Agenda?", that city residents should be on the lookout for a city hall "retire and rehire" ploy along with pay hikes and stipends for favored Dyster buddies.

Seems we knew what we were talking about.





DeSantis Backstabs in Quest for Stipend and New Position
Dyster's Disappearing Budget Demands Explanation
Council Shuns State Financial Guidance, Will Go It Alone
Virtuoso Cries Foul on Casino Windfall
Taxpayers to Foot Bill for Dyster's New Year's Eve Hard Rock Gala
Will Dyster Delete Accused Serial Rapist Bill Cosby?
THE DIRTY DOZEN: 12 tasteless jokes about America's (once) favorite comedian
Dyster Administration Considers Banning Reporter from City Hall
Is a Town Tax Inevitable in Lewiston?
State Parks Closes Restrooms on Gorge Tourists, Residents Inconvenienced
Skrlin Critics Continue to Praise His Genius
Famous Cartoon Character Remark on City Hall
Crogan Critics Having a Party But selling tactics seem somewhat suspicious
Variations on 'Muhammad' 3rd Most-Popular Boy's Name in England
China Pledges $0 to U.N. Climate Fund, Then Complains About Amount Allotted to Fund
Utah Man Charged for Sunbathing Nude in His Yard
Doctor Took Out Wrong Kidney
Plain Stupid, and Foolish -- Article Defending Obama
Don't Give Me That Trash, I'm Council Woman Grandinetti!
Limbaugh: 'Real Outrage Is an American Died' While NY Enforced Cigarette Tax
$466,642 Federal Study: Why Do Fat Girls Date Less and Risk More?
CDC: In Top 10 Abortion States, 60% of Babies Killed Were Black and Hispanic
Nausea Alert: Barack and Michelle Obama's First Date Being Made into Love Story Movie
Florida Capitol Will Display Satanic Diorama Among 'Religious' Holiday Displays
WNED-TV Film Explores the History of the Klondike Gold Rush
Warning Signs of Alzheimer's May be More Noticeable Over the Holidays
Give One Last Gift this Holiday Season with a Blood Donation
IBEW's Volunteer Efforts Bring Holiday Cheer to the City
'Whatever It Takes' is NF School Goal and Motto
Wind Energy Could Reduce Pollution By Nine Coal Plants in New York
Clearing the Deck for Jeb?
No Quarterback, No Playoffs for Sad Sack Bills

Contact Info

©2014 The Niagara Falls Reporter Inc.
POB 3083, Niagara Falls, N.Y. 14304
Phone: (716) 284-5595

Publisher and Editor in Chief: Frank Parlato
Managing Editor: Dr. Chitra Selvaraj
Senior Editor: Tony Farina