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OCT 28- NOV 05, 2014

Dyster Wants to Cart Away $309,499 in Casino Funds

By Anna M. Howard

October 28, 2014

The golf carts at Hyde Park presently travel on a gravel path. Mayor Paul Dyster, while blaming the deficit woes on city hall employees, wants to spend $300,000 on paved cart paths at Hyde Park.

Budget-budget who’s got the budget?

Mayor Dyster has it, we think.

It was due Oct. 1,2014.

Deficit-deficit how large is the deficit?

It’s $9 million or possibly $5 million. Depending on who’s talking.

Or maybe it’s $4.5 million.

Why is there a deficit?

It could be a shortfall in anticipated tax revenue or because of wasteful spending.

Or it could possibly both.

We don’t know. No one seems to know.

With hear frantic calls for “transparency in the city’s budget process and financial management system” coming from talk shows and editorial pages, yet the mystery of the Dyster administration budget deficit and delayed delivery of the budget continues to grow.

In fact the Reporter has learned that Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently told Mayor Dyster that he is disturbed about the city’s budget deficit drama. It is a deficit that recently developed despite the fact that the governor cut loose millions in Niagara Falls casino funds in June of 2013.

Paul Dyster came into office in 2008 on the back of a mysterious “Building a Better Niagara Fund” that gave the mayor hundreds of thousands of dollars with which to open his government and hire “the best and brightest” department heads.

The Reporter covered that slush fund scandal at length and we have been writing about Dyster’s disturbing lack of transparency ever since.

So, why is everyone surprised that, my goodness, Mayor Dyster refuses to practice “budget transparency?” The fact is that this administration has never practiced transparency in any part of its government, let alone the budget process.

This troubling lack of fiscal see-through is but a small part of an overall pattern of Dyster’s “hide and seek” and “now you see it now you don’t” management style.

And that brings us to the Monday (Oct. 27) council meeting, agenda item # 3 “Letter of award for Hyde Park golf course cart path installation.”

Dyster asked for $309,499 for golf cart paths in the midst of a $5 million or more deficit?

Councilmember Glenn Choolokian asked his colleagues to table the measure and in the light of the budget not even being presented - now almost a month late - the council agreed.

But, you would not know there was a budget crisis.

In the past several weeks since the deficit was “discovered,” Dyster has given Isaiah 61 $500,000, handed the Conference Center of Niagara $1.5 million, contracted for $260,000 in unnecessary work at Jayne Park and used “casino cash interest” to buy city planner Tom DeSantis $6,175 in rugs and drapes for his city hall office…and now he wants $309,499 for golf cart paths at Hyde Park.

In the wake of outraged calls for fiscal transparency, Dyster fails to even remotely describe on the council agenda support papers why the cart paths are needed, on what part of the golf course they are being installed, and what the work consists of. We only know that the work is to be paid with casino cash.

A contract doesn’t even exist yet for this work. The mayor, with his agenda item, wants carte blanche approval to execute a contract with assistance of the corporation counsel to the tune of $309,499 with American Paving and Excavating of Clarence Center.

Additionally, while the agenda item claims it will be paid with casino funds there is to be a fund transfer to budget line H1314.2013.1314.0449.599 with no explanation as to what this budget line happens to be.

And all of this sleight of hand is occurring in the middle of a public outcry for “budget process and financial management transparency.”

There have never been motorized cart paths on any portion of the 36-hole Hyde Park golf course complex. Why now and why in the face of a multi-million dollar deficit?

What is the percentage of Hyde Park golfers that use motorized carts? What plan is in place to enforce and penalize those motorized golf cart users that ignore or misuse the cart paths? DPW director Dave Kinney told the Reporter that when it rains heavily carts cannot be used on the golf course and sometimes tournaments have been canceled.

But how often has this occurred.

What is the cost/benefit analysis? In my part of the country, $300,000 is a lot of money.

Moreover, the company that submitted the low bid has asked to withdraw the bid, saying they came in too low. Expect the price to soar upward.

Regardless, from where in Dyster’s administration has this casino-cash-grab grown from?

Exactly what is going on?

This “non-transparency” is no accident.

The non-transparency is by design.





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Dyster Wants to Cart Away $309,499 in Casino Funds
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