When news broke Monday morning that a Niagara Falls councilman had been involved in a bar brawl, our first instinct was to roll over and hit the snooze bar. It was hardly becoming of an elected official, but it didn’t exactly rise to the level of high crimes and misdemeanors, either. Frankly, the only redeeming quality of the story at all was that it was less dull than the latest rehashing of the AES snooze-fest.
But as more details have emerged it has become clear that Falls City Councilman Steve Fournier must resign.
The Niagara Times has always been a staunch defender of the notion of “innocent until proven guilty.” However, the troubling details revealed in today’s Niagara Gazette story by ace crime-and-cops-beat reporter Rick Pfeiffer make it clear that Fournier can no longer effectively govern.
The police report against Mr. Fournier is damning. Of particular note is this passage, and here, we’ll lift directly from Pfeiffer: “‘That (expletive, racial slur) was trying to start (expletive) with me and you’re not gonna (expletive) do anything about it?’ [NFPD Officer Scott] Warme wrote Fournier said to him.”
Classy. And stupid, given that 24% of the population of Niagara Falls is non-white. Certainly, not a good re-election strategy. But moreover, not a bright governing strategy, either.
Of course, Fournier compounds his stupidity—excuse us, allegedly compounds his alleged stupidity: “‘Do you guys know who you just (expletive) arrested?’ Warme quoted Fournier as saying as he was led to the car.”
Yeah, that’s always been an effective argument.
We also got a kick out of this: “‘I don’t remember using those words,’ the councilman said. ‘Honestly, I don’t know what I said.’ Fournier also absolutely denied making a racial slur. ‘I really don’t remember saying that,’ he said. ‘I have so many African American friends, I don’t believe I would have said that.’”
Ah, yes, the favorite fallback of bigots: But, I have lots of black friends!
Still, more embarrassing might be the behavior of Fournier’s fellow elected officials in the Falls. At least Fournier has the excuse of not being sober; Mayor Paul Dyster and Council President Chris Robins have no excuses for their simpering behavior. Leaders stand up for what’s right. These clowns just mouth clichéd lawyer weasel words to protect their bar-brawling buffoon of a buddy. And, given the lows to which racial relations have sunk under Mayor Dyster, you would think he’d want to get out in front on this one.
His deafening silence on Fournier’s choice of words is no better than condoning the DPW’s whites-only drinking fountain. It’s time for Dyster to lead, for a change.