August 30, 2010
Time to Walk the Plank
Friday night, the Buffalo News reported that our old friend, Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster, had issued a statement demanding a line-by-line explanation of expenses by the Niagara Tourism and Convention Corp. following last week’s blistering audit of the tourism agency.
“From the perspective of an elected official, just given the nature of some of the expenditures, there has to be additional information provided. I think it's just common sense,” Dyster wrote. He then demanded the detailed explanation of the expenses that NTCC CEO John Percy has racked up—things ranging from the infamous $18,000 in massages from Gaylord Spa to lesser-known abuses, such as a $180 tuxedo rental by a man who receives a six-figure salary and a $25,000 annual bonus.
We agree with what Dyster is demanding. The problem is, however, Dyster is playing a dishonest shell game.
Sources inside the NTCC tell us that on Friday afternoon, NTCC Board Chairman Frank Strangio sent a detailed email to members of the agency’s board of directors listing all the various times he, Percy, and NTCC staff had called Dyster over the past week seeking to answer his questions. Every time, Dyster refused their calls or was “unavailable.” (This, after he failed to attend a meeting of the NTCC board last Friday because he was on one of his frequent vacations.)
Strangio’s email was very specific about times and numbers of attempted contacts. If Dyster truly wanted those explanations, he had plenty of chances to tell Strangio or Percy. Instead, he decided to make his demands in the press. In other words, Dyster’s actions were all for show—that is, the actions of a politician trying to turn his own failings into victimhood.
The problem is, Paul Dyster isn’t an outside observer. He’s a member of the NTCC board of directors (and has been since January 2008). And he is not, as he insisted to WLVL newscaster John Raymond the other day, a non-voting ex officio member. Dyster is, in fact, a director with full voting privileges who has served on the board for more than two and a half years. That means he has served on the board for the entire period covered by the audit—that is, the years 2008 and 2009. And remember, Percy was handpicked four years ago by Dyster’s political matron, Francine DelMonte, to run the NTCC. So, Dyster had plenty of opportunity to obtain detailed explanations of John Percy's spending. And this isn't exactly the first time Percy's spending has raised eyebrows.
Dyster’s not alone in his failure to control Percy’s drunken-sailor-like spending binges. Tricia Mezhir, who represents odious Maid of the Mist operator Jimmy Glynn on the board of directors, was board chair while the worst of Percy’s abuses occurred. Heck, she and Percy even charged the NTCC $110.72 for dinner for two following a joint presentation to the County Legislature. (We don’t know about where you work, but our employer does cover meals when we’re on the road. However, we usually have to go just a tad bit farther than Lockport.) That makes Mezhir, at the very least, an accessory to the crime.
Strangely, though, Dyster has directed his full criticism at Strangio, who only took over as board chair in January. Dyster has yet to say one word about Mezhir. But, then again, Dyster is Jimmy Glynn’s handpicked mayor, and Mezhir is Jimmy Glynn’s handpicked errand girl.
Like many a drunken sailor before him, John Percy should have to walk the plank. But Dyster and Mezhir should be made to walk the plank right after him—right off the deck of the Maid of the Mist.