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NOV 19 - NOV 26, 2015

What the 'Chit' Will the Restructuring Board to do?

Anna Howard

NOV 19, 2015

Paul Dyster
Drunken Sailor

What is the state restructuring board going to do when they arrive at city hall to look at Paul Dyster's finance records? Only time will tell but if they discover what the NYS Comptroller discovered - mishandled money, unaccounted for money, casino revenue improperly applied to the recurring deficit - the chit, offered through participating in the state restructuring program, could hit the fan.

We have no idea how the board will proceed but we have no doubt that the mayor and those city employees who benefit from governmental non transparency will surrender only the barest of financial facts to the Albany bean counters.

With that in mind we're using this column space to list some of the fiscal facts that the restructuring board should be aware of before they sit with the mayor and his department heads. It's a safe bet that Dyster won't be sharing any of the information you read here with the restructuring board.

The anonymous fund. Paul Dyster came into office on the back of an unethical, and logically illegal, slush fund. That fund caused the mayor to increase the salaries of department heads and permanently skew the pay scale across city government. Many city hall salaries top the salaries of matching positions in much larger cities, such as Buffalo. And, incredibly, the mayor continues to blame employee pay for the city's finance woes.

The "municipal building" also called the courthouse. It was supposed to cost $30 million but came in $20 million higher at an astounding $50 million. Where'd the $20,000,000 go?

The Dyster-DeSantis train station opens next year. It'll cost no less than $44 million with no less than $4 million of that coming from casino revenue. It was "re-bid' for no good reason at an added cost of $350,000 in additional casino revenue. And, don't forget that the city has no funds earmarked, let alone potentially available, for day to day operation once it opens.

Mr. Dyster has spent more than $1,000,000 for outside lawyers. This after he increased his corporation controller's salary by over 30% - upon hiring in 2008 - and added a fourth attorney to the city legal staff. Internal and external city legal costs are all out of proportion for a city the size of Niagara Falls.

The parking plan/study that the mayor and council chairman incessantly talk about has cost well over $100,000 and is expected to increase in expense before a single parking meter is planted downtown. Dyster has - this year and for next year - placed projected "parking revenue" into his budget. That's obvious book cooking in that projected numbers were placed in the final budget while not a single parking meter was in place to realize that projected number.

The restructuring board should tour the city and one stop of the tour should be 72nd Street. They should understand that the water line remediation job is scheduled to cost not a penny less than $970,000 while the job could have been done for $340,000 had it been done in 2010 when the road was rebuilt. We predict the job will total out - change orders, city employee overtime, engineer consulting fees, new stipends for chosen employees - at not a penny under $1.3million.

Mayor Dyster has played a cynical game of "now you see me now you don't" with regard to the misspending of the casino revenue. While he has called himself the gatekeeper of casino revenue he repeatedly blames the city council for the lack of available casino revenue. He claims there's a casino revenue spending plan but no one has ever seen it. The restructuring board should surgically review - expenditure by expenditure for the past eight years - all of the mayor's casino revenue expenditures.

The renovation of the city Ice Pavilion was targeted to come in at $4 million. It's climbed to over $12 million and no one seems know how that happened.

Overtime for elements of the city workforce has expanded throughout the past eight years. Stipends, something that used to be as rare as hens teeth, are handed out by the administration in a questionable fashion. Some employees have literally doubled their salaries with overtime and stipends.

Mr. Dyster continues to employ the disturbing gambit that the Reporter has named: retire and rehire. The bureaucratic trick sees Dyster's favorite employees retire only to be rehired days later at $30,000 per year as part time "consultants."

The 20013 audit by the state Comptroller detailed a series of disturbing financial measures that the Dyster administration has taken. Including the misuse of casino revenue, money improperly hidden from the mayor and council, money that could not be accounted for, to name but a few serious state findings.

This list could go on and on but we're confident that we've mentioned some key areas that the restructuring board can zero in on for a start.






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