January 22, 2010

Broken News: DelMonte Directs Scheer To Ice Story

We have done little to hide our contempt for “reporter” Mark Scheer of the Niagara Gazette. His articles are poorly written, extremely biased, shoddy, and did we mention poorly written?

But we never thought we’d be calling for Gazette management to fire him.

That is, until we actually had it related to us by very reliable sources that Scheer is, in fact, taking his marching orders directly from Francine DelMonte, and killing stories unflattering to DelMonte’s allies.

Our saga begins last Wednesday. We’re told that Scheer contacted the Niagara County government and demanded to know why the county had failed to file reports required by the state law governing bodies in receipt of casino dollars, in which the recipients are required to detail how they spent the casino dollars. (For those in the know, that would be Section 99-h of the Finance Law.)

The entire pretense of Scheer’s inquiry to Niagara County, and a later one to the Niagara County Industrial Development Agency, focused aggressively on the assertion—which inside sources tell us was placed directly in his ear by our old friend Francine—that neither entity had filed the requisite reports, which are due to the governor, the Temporary President of the State Senate, the Speaker of the Assembly, the mayor of Niagara Falls, and the Niagara Falls Council President by April 1 of each year.

Scheer was somewhat deflated when, within a few hours, Niagara County had provided him with a copy of the report they sent to all five parties on March 26, 2009. Scheer threw up the white flag, however, when the following day the IDA demonstrated that it, too, had filed its report on March 26, 2009.

The notion of the county and the IDA failing to file such reports would have been a major coup for Francine, and a major scoop for our wannabe-Bob Woodward. But that’s not to suggest Scheer’s investigating was fruitless. Scheer DID uncover, we are told, significant wrongdoing with regard to the filings—just not on the part of Francine’s political enemies in county government.

It turns out that, while the county and the IDA complied with the law, at least three entities failed to: the Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center, the NTCC, and the Niagara Falls School District. In fact, we are even told that Niagara Falls School Superintendent Cynthia Bianco frantically called the IDA asking if THEY had written and filed a report on the school district’s behalf.

So, when we read Scheer’s long-awaited article Saturday, we were a bit perplexed. We asked our knowledgeable source what had happened, and were told that Scheer had buried the story about the failure of the school district and the hospital to comply with the law, and instead wrote a puff piece about the wonderful things they did with their share of the money. And we’re told, unequivocally, that Scheer did this on a direct order from his political matron, Francine DelMonte.

Bad writing is one thing. Killing a story to protect your political friends, though, is something altogether different. Francine’s actions are the actions of a woman drunk with power. Scheer’s though, are a firing offense in journalism. We’ll be watching to see what kind of newsman Gazette Publisher Peter Mio turns out to be.


James T. Kirk said...

Hobbes, this is truly disturbing news. For the better part of a year, we've heard Ms. Del Monte drone on and on about how she felt like the county didn't follow the intent behind the law on casino dollars.

Now it turns out her friends Ruffalo, Bianco, and Percy didn't even bother to follow the law itself.

It boggles the mind.

Worse, though, is that Mr. Scheer, who, as you've noted in the past, writes "news" articles as if they were press releases for Ms. Del Monte and Mr. Dyster, is now failing to disclose the discovery of criminal wrongdoing by his pals in politics.

Vince Anello should have had it so good.

NiagaraWatchman said...

Your critique of Scheer reminds me of a pot and kettle story.

You seem to love hating Demler, which you're more than entitled to do. But, like Scheer in your article, you either didn't fact check the cell phone story or worse yet, ignored the facts you discovered.

You "reported" allegatations that Demler and his family had town paid cell phones that they charged to the taxpayers and never surrendered when Demler left office.

Your hard-hitting investigative journalism missed some key facts including: 1) Demler delivering his phone to the Town Clerk on 12/31/09 and 2) the phone policy allowed for reimbursed phones.

Some of Demler family did have phones, paid for by Demler. It's interesting that you didn't mention others who may have likewise had town-issued by reimbursed phones, like Tammie Lee Demler or the wife of Town Board Member Larry Helwig, your likely "source" for this story.

You're not above bias in your reporting so please consider your own words about Scheer. Of course, you're a blogger so you might just think you get to say anything you want with impunity.

Paladin said...

Hi Tim! We always suspected you were a Niagara Times fan.