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Traveling Man DeSantis Made a Lot of Stops All O'er the World

By Frank Parlato

Tom DeSantis loves to travel.
DeSantis does not spend much time here. Why should he when he can travel all over the world on your dime?

Thomas J. DeSantis, senior planner for the City of Niagara Falls, NY, does more than his fair share of traveling.

He has in fact received more than $12,497 in reimbursements from the city during the last few years not including reimbursement for travel and/or mileage.

DeSantis uses his own credit card then applies for reimbursement later. Because he does not use the city's American Express Card, as do other city employees, according to information obtained by FOIL requests, his precise travel and who he represents during these travels is not always clear.

Curiously, DeSantis has appeared at various places at the same time as engineers from Wendel Duchscherer Architects and Engineers, a firm who has been awarded millions in work from the city in the past few years. In fact, the planned train station's design team was led by DeSantis, the city's project manager, and Susan Sherwood of Wendel, project manager assigned to lead and coordinate the design of the station.

Both Sherwood and DeSantis have presented together in several out of town places on the topic of the train station.

"We have gone to Washington DC to talk to politicians there," Sherwood said. "We just did (a presentation) in Buffalo for an Environmental Conference. It's not unusual that we'll go to present to a group on rail and transportation and things like that."

The Spring of 2012 gives a fair example of how DeSantis spends his time working for the taxpayers as a senior planner explaining his work to various people in other cities.

DeSantis was reimbursed by the city for $735 for an American Planning Conference, held in Los Angeles in April.

In May, DeSantis' name appears in connection with the 2012 Bus and Paratransit Conference in Long Beach, California. Sherwood was also at the conference.

According to the published schedule for the Bus and Paratransit Conference, on the afternoon of May 7, DeSantis and Sherwood were to present on "Green Goals & Initiatives" for transit agencies.

According to the website for the event, (http://www.apta.com/mc/bus /previous/2012/presentations/Pages/default.aspx) DeSantis was listed not as Senior Planner for the City of Niagara Falls, but as an associate of Wendell Engineers of Amherst.

On June 3-6, 2012, DeSantis and Sherwood were scheduled to appear at a rail conference in Dallas, Texas, on "LEED, FTA and SHPO: A Case Study of the Niagara Falls Intermodal Transportation Center, Niagara Falls, NY."

Sherwood was unable to attend. Together they wrote a paper called the "Adaptive Reuse of a Historic Structure in the Development of a New Rail Passenger Station and U.S. Port of Entry" which was presented to the conference.

In late June, DeSantis went to Quebec City, this time with Mayor Paul Dyster. DeSantis stayed at the Frontenac Quebec hotel, at a cost of $229 per night, for two nights, and rented a car. He went to attend the annual conference for the Great Lakes St Lawrence Cities initiative. DeSantis' portion of the trip cost taxpayers $1,712.16.

On October 12, 2012, DeSantis attended the Congress for New Urbanism, a Retreat. He stayed at the charming Chautauqua Suites.

He was also at the 2010 Annual Brownfield Conference. In June 2010, he went to Albany for the high speed rail conference and in March 2011, to Schenectady. In June 2011, DeSantis attended a Brownfield summit in Albany. In Dec, 2011 he went to Chicago for a Great Lakes St Lawrence Cities Initiative conference.

In April 2013, he attended the APA National Conference in Chicago. In Sept, 2013, DeSantis appeared with Wendel Engineer, Ellen Parker, in Schenectady.

In addition to domestic travel, DeSantis, while working for the city, generously arranged to travel out of the USA to be of service to foreign nations as a participant in the International Brownfield Exchange Program, where he gladly shared his expertise on brownfield regeneration practices and urban land management in England, Netherlands, Germany, and Spain. He is also a member of the U.S.-German Bilateral Working Group on Sustainable Revitalization. Sadly, one time, when DeSantis went to Dusseldorf, Germany, insofar as he did not get prior approval for the trip, the city was unable to honor his request for reimbursement (as is the rule for foreign travel).

In addition to his out of town trips, DeSantis charges mileage for local meetings. His three month mileage charge for the first quarter of this year shows DeSantis was reimbursed $410.41. He got $23 for a GBNRTCC meeting in Buffalo; $22.60 for a Region Four Steering Committee, and for parking and mileage; and $49.73 for the Bi National Mayors meeting in Buffalo.

When DeSantis goes from city hall to the site of the planned train station, to meet someone, as he did on May 3, his mileage charges are $2.80.

He also frequently chauffeurs the mayor.

DeSantis was first hired by the city in 1988. He is the city's senior planner who oversees municipal land use planning; the city's Planning Board, the Historic Preservation Commission, GIS services and is the city's Policy and Coordinating Committee representative for the Greater Buffalo Niagara Transportation Council.

DeSantis also manages grants for projects and is an adjunct professor at the State University of New York at Buffalo in the School of Architecture and Regional Planning.



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

Feb 04, 2014