Several Niagara County Legislators have submitted a resolution for the next Leg meeting asking for a Board of Inquiry into what role Coroner James Joyce had in his business dealings with certain individuals who are now under federal indictment for allegedly running massage parlors as fronts for prostitution activities in both Niagara and Erie counties. While we do not know if the county should or should not move forward with the Board of Inquiry, we do find the reaction to the resolution calling for the inquiry from one Legislator laughable.
Dennis Virtuoso (D-Niagara Falls) stated that Joyce's role "had nothing to do with his position as a coroner. It was another outside interest that he had.” Here's the problem with that statement: Joyce had taken those individuals who've been indicted to political functions and asked public officials to become involved with their business ventures. Joyce had also personally partnered with the individual on business dealings. In essence, it appears that he did use his role as a politically connected coroner to advance his personal business interests.
Virtuoso also stated that the case didn’t bear on Joyce's county duties. While that may be true, I would imagine that Joyce wasn't pitching his offerings while on-call, his nearly 30 years in office certainly afforded him the opportunity to gain significant political influence.
Even Niagara County Sheriff Tom Beilein, who had posed for a picture with Joyce's indicted friends, stated that he did so because Joyce had vouched for the couple. Beilein, after learning that the photograph was hung in a prominent place in their Wheatfield massage parlor, had the photo taken down.
Now, we've given Virtuoso credit before. He is the consummate politician who is very effective in his role as Minority Leader. But don't sit there and tell us that this had nothing to do with his role as coroner, Dennis. This time, it just won't fly.