July 29, 2008

Niagara Falls Bridge Commission Saga Continues

The silence coming out of the Niagara Falls Bridge Commission regarding the departure of long-time General Manager Tom Garlock has been deafening over the past week. It's obvious to all that there is a deliberate effort being made to hide the circumstances of Garlock's departure and any discussion of a sweetheart send off package (rumored to be $250K plus lifetime health insurance.)

Yesterday, Business First may have found the first crack in the Commission's wall of silence...see below. Perhaps Governor Paterson should make accountability of agencies and commissions part of his speech this afternoon to reign in the cost of government.

Departing commissioner: Garlock was fired
Business First of Buffalo - by James Fink Business First

Just a few days after the long-time general manager of the Niagara Falls Bridge Commission abruptly resigned, one of the commission's directors has resigned in protest. Brian Wilkie, a Canadian representative on the eight-member board, has left his seat. He claims that the resignation of Tom Garlock as general manager was engineered by his fellow commissioners.

Wilkie, a manager of Niagara Peninsula Energy Inc., a city-owned firm that distributes electricity, told the Niagara Falls Review that the other commissioners' role in Garlock's sudden departure was "unconscionable, unethical and harmful to the commission."In his resignation letter, Wilkie said "he refused to endorse this action."

Garlock had been the bridge commission's general manager since late 2000. The commission oversees the operations and maintenance of Lewiston-Queenston, Rainbow and Whirlpool bridges between Western New York and Southern Ontario.Garlock, a Lockport native, led the commission through several construction projects aimed at improving traffic flow on the three bridges.

He declined to comment on the latest developments. Garlock has been a prominent figure in the local economic development scene, having also served as Buffalo Zoo president and as a key legislative aide to a number of Niagara County elected officials. With Wilkie's resignation, the commission is down to two members.

Diane Vitello, a Niagara Falls attorney, resigned her post earlier this year after she was named a judge. Under its bylaws, the commission has four Ontario directors - all appointed by Ontario's Ministry of Government Services - and four New York directors, all of whose appointments come from Albany.Gov. David Paterson, who was in Buffalo last week, declined to comment on Garlock's departure and when asked about naming a replacement for Vitello responded by saying "yes."

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

Another reason why we need further oversight of these agencies. There is no accountability.

Anonymous said...

Another worthless post by hobbes that says nothing. Whats next are you going to attack the windmills on your horse?

gop shill said...

Hobbes,

Dead on with this one. The Democrat hacks on the Bridge Commission are too dumb to realize that its best to get the full story out and move on rather than cover up their mismanagement.

They are probably taking crisis management advice from Dan Rivera.

Fawn Leibowitz said...

One of the anonymous commenters believes that this post is worthless. Obviously it's either someone connected to the situation or someone who's too stupid to realize the gravity of this situation. This is in fact a big deal, and as someone mentioned, indicative of the lack of oversight on these agencies. They believe that they work their political deals with no repercussions whatsoever, and for the most part, they can. But as the story in the Buffalo News today states, politically motivated firings are illegal. One can only assume that the biedge commission "settled" any potential lawsuits with Garlock by giving him the massive golden parachute.

Anonymous said...

The next time you pay your tolls, ask yourself if the management of this bridge is important to you and Western New York. Democrats need to call it like it is on this one to save any credibility they may have.

There are no back doors on a bridge so don't expect to see Dan Rivera there any time soon!

Signed,
Front Door Roy

Anonymous said...

Paterson needs to figure out what happened, now, and make it public. Problem solved.

Anonymous said...

Dear Front Door Roy:

How do you know Back Door Dan?

XOXO
Sidedoor Sally

Clark Griswold said...

Worthless post? You're right, calling for the accountability of Commissions that are designed to help local citizens, particularly this one, is useless and absurd. Please. Quit bashing Hobbes just because he has the stones to bring up issues such as this when many in the public spectrum simply do not.

rob clark said...

Anonymous.....First off you have the wrong Dan. Secondly Danelle has worked for the TOWN OF NIAGARA (nice you of racial profanity jerk off) for several years now. She does a great job, and is a hard worker.

rob clark said...

I kinda agree with Hobbes on this one. We have way to many Authorities, and Commissions in NY State. The problem is more than with just one party. There are patronage boards at every level of government.

pirate's code said...

In private industry, CEOs and directors come and go, often without any publicity at all. Unfortunately, too many public and quasi-public authorities and commissions attempt to operate like a private business. Except, they are not private at all, are they?

If the facts of the buyout are true, a lump sum payout of $250 K (on what I assume was a six figure salary) is not huge, frankly. The lifetime health care is more troubling. Since we don't know what was in the original contract, for all we know this may well have been negotiated and agreed to months or years ago. And, I have no issue with personnel matters being done behind closed doors.

However...and there is always a however...the wall of silence once everything was done is most troubling to me. I suspect the average citizen wouldn't know Tom Garlock if he showed up at their door, nor could they identify any of the commissioners. But, it is still a public authority, answerable to citizens on both sides of the bridge.

These authority folks never seem to get that the simple act of communications will go a long way to preventing the erosion of trust placed in them. You were appointed to do a job, so do it. But doing that job includes being open about it.

Really, it's not that hard.

Anonymous said...

Everyone seems to be lumping the NFBC in with all other Authorities and Commissions across NYS. While I agree that there needs to be much more oversight and regulation with the rest of the Authorities and Commissions across NYS, lumping the NFBC with the rest actually diminshes the story of the Niagara Falls Bridge Commission.

The NFBC really stands heads and above the rest of the authorities and commissions across NYS when it comes to a quasi-government organization operating in the shadows.

At least a citizen can obtain basic financial information, like an annual budget or annual financial statement, at all of the other public authorities. One can attend a commissioners meeting at all of the other Authorities across NYS.

A citizen, no matter how much they may pay in tolls each year at the bridge crossings, has ABSOLUTELY NO legal right to review any of the basic financial documents, or even attend a commissioners meeting!! Everything, and I mean everything is done behind closed doors in secret.

There have been several scandals over the years involving the bridge commission, but everything has always been hushed because they have that ability. Remember when Joel Cicero from the Laborers was indicted for racketeering? He was serving as a Commissioner at the NFBC at the same time that his Laborers Local was engaging in severe picket line violence at a picket site on the Rainbow Bridge (protesting a restaraunt construction site).

Also, as far as this commission being a Democratic party problem; it has historically crossed party lines. Joel Cicero was a Pataki appointee.