Let’s get this out of the way. Places like NYPA are always going to have the fair share of patronage. The practice is as old as time itself. However, Richie Kessel’s NYPA seems to be taking that to the extreme. The number of people being stuffed into security guard, janitorial and tour guide jobs (especially considering the state has a hiring freeze, I believe, though I could be wrong) has been unbelievable.
Now the thing with patronage is you try to keep it low profile and put people in jobs who are actually qualified. Well, that’s what most people do, but Richie Kessel’s NYPA is all about winning over gullible local politicians who are willing to sell their souls, keep their mouths shut and attend every Kessell press conference in the hope that maybe he’ll throw a few scraps their way.
Which brings us to the latest bone that Kessell has thrown to a local – the hiring of the Niagara Falls City Councilman Steve Fournier to work at the Niagara Power Project. Where to begin with this one.
You might remember Fournier is the Councilman who got loaded one night, get into a minor brouhaha and started dropping some N-bombs all over the place. As is the course for these politicos, he apologize, pled out and promised to go meet with the local chapter of the NAACP about what prompted him to drop the N-bomb in the first place.
Problem is that Fournier blew off the NAACP twice, skipping the scheduled meetings. That tells you all you need to know about his character. Now, the vice Chair of the Niagara Falls NAACP is Shirley Hamilton. Ms. Hamilton, who we have a growing fondness for, is also a union muckety muck over at NYPA.
So, sources have told us that Ms. Hamilton and other African American employees are off the wall angry that Fournier has been given this plumb gig.
Secondly, Fournier was supposed to be a security guard or janitor but couldn’t pass the friggin test so the shoe horned him into the tour guide job. Now, the only reason we know this part is because Fournier himself walked around the Niagara Power Project yesterday telling everyone about his inability to pass the test. (Note to Steve: best not to tell people you ain’t all that smart, though I’m sure they’d figure it out soon enough.)
Third, the City of Niagara Falls and the NYPA have a contractual relationship through the relicensing process. There are times when the Council and NYPA are adversaries, there are times when the City is looking to NYPA for cash for projects, etc. So, given this, tell me how this isn’t one big fat conflict of interest for Fournier to be working on NYPA’s payroll.
Last, Fournier himself said he couldn’t pass a test. So, clearly he wasn’t hired on the merits. As such, the public has a right to know who made calls on Fournier’s behalf to get him this sweet gig that we hear pays close to $30 bucks an hour (though we haven’t verified that yet.) Did Dyster help his Council ally? Did DelMonte make calls? Given the racial implications, we can’t believe Senator Thompson would be involved, but he has been king of getting people in at NYPA. And when we find out who, the next question is why?