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JULY 07 - JULY 15, 2015

Taxpayers Can’t See Clearly Now, or Ever,
As Dyster Defies Transparency

By Anna Howard

JULY 7, 2015

Paul Dyster, shown in his office, with hands covering over paperwork, is not a big fan of government transparency.

The Reporter recently detailed how it had filed 29 FOILS with the Dyster administration seeking information on an array of topics that an informed public has every right to know.

This past week we received 29 letters from City Hall saying the city will need 20 days to review each FOIL request to determine if the city will honor any of them.

In other words, FOILS were essentially dumped into the morass that is the Dyster administration FOIL process.

While we’ll keep our readers updated on the progress, or lack thereof, of the FOILS, we want you to know that there’s all types of city financial information that not only should be easily available by FOIL, it should already be accessible on the city website, but it’s not.

Nowhere is the dark heart of the non-transparent Dyster administration more evident than when it comes to city finance and the use, and abuse, of taxpayer dollars.

The casino revenue interest account is unavailable on the city website. The casino account expenditures are online, thanks to former State Senator George Maziarz, but the interest accrued from the casino account remains a mystery.

Was the interest spent? If so, on what, and if not where’s the money?

The audit of city finances performed by the NYS Comptroller from Jan 2009 to9 Jan 2013 and released in May 2013 is not on the city website, but it’s on the NYS Comptroller’s website.

That scathing audit detailed the many ways the Dyster administration had not only mismanaged taxpayer dollars, but it reported that millions of taxpayer dollars had literally been hidden within the budget and had to be discovered by the state auditors. Some of the hidden money remained unaccounted for, according to the NYS Comptroller, at the close of their audit.

Also missing from the city website is the Dyster administration written response to the NYS Comptroller’s 2013 audit. Until that response is made available to the public we have no way of knowing if the city addressed and repaired the numerous money management problems revealed by the state.

The Dyster administration recently hired the Bonadio accounting firm to review the city’s finances. The Bonadio audit reported that the city is in debt to the tune of $7.6 million. While the audit results were announced several weeks ago at a council meeting you won’t find the audit on the city website.

So, what city audit is posted on the city website?

It’s the “City of Niagara Falls, New York Financial Statement as of December 31, 2010” done by Bonadio. 2010 was several “financial crises” and one scathing NYS Comptroller’s audit ago. In the world of municipal finance, five years is a lifetime.

Many municipalities now routinely post all information on contracts, bids and their bid process live online. In this way a resident or businessperson readily knows what bids are on the table and what the eventual results/costs of all bids and contracts are.

You won’t see this form of live, easily accessible information on the city website.

Another thing you won’t see on the Dyster administration website, although we’ve recommended it for the past year, is a live posting of the current 2015 budget. If the 2015 budget were online in real time a resident could watch as their tax dollars flow out of the budget.

With the budget posted in real time a taxpayer could be fully informed as to how the 2015 budget was curiously “reopened” in April with money shifted from here to there – from this budget line to that budget line or department  - for reasons known only to those doing the shifting.

A “live budget” would remove much of the confusion from the budget process while holding all those who work with the budget - elected and appointed - to a more acceptable level of accountability and transparency. And yes, many governments now post their budgets “live online” for just that reason.

The city’s “financial arm” is called the NFC and Mayor Dyster is the chairman of the NFC board. The NFC awards loans and grants to existing city businesses and startup businesses. While the NFC can be located (not easily) on the city website there’s no way of telling what businesses have been given loans or grants.

The NFC page is lacking a good deal more information in addition to that, however.

The last NFC financial statement posted is from 2013. The Board of Directors roster is from 2014. The most recent annual report is from 2012 and the meeting minutes don’t go beyond 2013.

The NFC “document archive” webpage has information from 2010, 2011 and 2012 and nothing beyond those years. We understand that there are a number of NFC loans or grants that are pending at this time, but you’d never know that from the online information currently posted.

To the Reporter the question of government transparency is simple: If there’s nothing to hide, then there’s no reason for hiding it.

What’s the Dyster administration hiding?






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Phone: (716) 284-5595

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