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JULY 22 - JULY 30, 2014

Walker Rejects Back-Tax Settlement of $1.5 Million From One Niagara

By Anna M. Howard

July 22, 2014

The owners of One Niagara tried to pay property taxes of $1.5 million, but city wouldn’t allow it.

Dick Soluri, a member of the One Niagara management team, arrived at City Hall late Monday afternoon with a $1.5 million check to settle One Niagara’s back tax issue.

Charles Walker,  chairman of the city council, declined the $1.5 million check and told Corporation Counsel Craig Johnson - who had worked all afternoon to add the item to Monday’s agenda - that as chairman he was refusing to accept the money, and the offer cannot be considered again until at least September.

Yes, you read that correctly: Charles Walker, the 17-year veteran of the council, rejected – in the name of all city residents – a check that would have instantly dropped $1.5 million into the city coffers and settle once and for all the tax dispute between One Niagara and the city.

Why did Walker refuse the money?

We don’t know, yet.

It’s worth noting that Walker refused the huge settlement at the same time as Mayor Dyster is repeatedly handing over cash to failing businesses on Third  Street, giving away prime downtown land to deadbeat “developers” like Mark Hamister, building a $45 million train station that no one will use, trying to force $40,000 of city funds on the organizers of the Blues Festival, and gifting the Community Mission $150,000 in order to paper over their federal tax debts.

It is curious.

But perhaps not so curious when one stops to consider that this is the city politician who, as a full-employee at his day job at Memorial Medical Center,  voted on issues that benefited his employer time and again: water bill forgiveness; city sponsorship cash for events; awarding of city casino cash and, infrastructure improvements.

This is the same city politician who has repeatedly voted and worked in various ways to benefit the Niagara Falls Housing Authority, such as: supporting their request for more than $1 million in city money to complete the Hope VI subsidized housing project…a project that, per a recent federal audit, owes HUD $1.5 million; supporting the city paying to install light standards in the Wrobel Towers parking lot; and, working successfully to give the housing authority a complete waiver from the new trash and recycling ordinance - an ordinance which Walker supported then suddenly tabled.

To say that Walker is a troubling, walking-talking conflict of special interests is to put it mildly.

In fact the book on Charles Walker is that he, time and again, refuses to vote yes on anything, no matter how routine it may be, unless there is something in it for himself or his friends, whether male or female.

This move to reject $1.5 million for the residents is perhaps the boldest, most disturbing, most blatant of all questionable things he has done in his 17 years on the city council.

Seventeen years!

That’s four terms plus one year, this current year. It’s so many years that Walker will receive lifetime health insurance when he finally exits city hall. Walker will walk away with a health insurance benefit intended for full-time career city employees all because he attended biweekly  council meetings for almost two decades. At many of those meetings, he appeared to be asleep but that doesn’t matter. The rulebook – written by the council he sits on – says he can phone the job in and still reap the rewards of a full-time city employee. 

So just exactly who is Charles Walker? The Niagara Falls Reporter is going to pursue that question in coming weeks. We’re going to foil his voting record and review the resolutions he has sponsored over 17 years. We’re going to be looking into his relationship and voting record with regard to a number of curious conflicts of interest.

We’re convinced there’s much more to Charles Walker than meets the eye.

As for his refusal to accept the back tax payment of $1.5 million, we suspect that the answer to this riddle lies between the office of Paul Dyster and the office of USA Niagara President Chris Schoepflin.

USA Niagara has made an offer to buy the One Niagara property which instead of being a property where the city can earn $1.5 million in tax revenue, would take the property off the tax rolls, as it will be handed to some favored developer, or handed to the state.

How Walker may be involved in this is worth some serious study.

We’re going to be digging deep in order to solve that mystery.

Walker may have fooled the voters of this city for the past 17 years, but he hasn’t fooled the Niagara Falls Reporter.

Stay tuned.

Multiple calls to Charles Walker by the Niagara Falls Reporter were not answered or returned. 





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