Cuomo's Police Monitoring Group Back Feeding at the City Trough
By Frank Parlato
The high-priced police monitoring group selected by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to play watchdog over policies and practices of the hard working men and women of the Niagara Falls police department is back.
The Niagara Falls Reporter has learned that Warshaw & Associates, Inc. came to town without being asked in order to meet with new police Chief Bryan DalPorto, charging the city $19,000 for their efforts.
Originally, Dyster claimed the monitoring contract with Warshaw and Associates would cost the city only $57,000, but last year alone, the city spent a whopping $165,000.
Warshaw’s involvement here is the result of a consent order, signed between the City of Niagara Falls and the New York State Attorney General’s office that mandates hiring a private consulting firm to monitor the city police force, document its internal affairs investigations, and create a written policy on community initiatives.
The consent order was based on 30 citizen complaints alleging that Niagara Falls police officers used "excessive… force primarily against African-American residents."
While the city could have chosen any number of police monitoring firms, and it is a fact there were lower priced firms available, Cuomo gave the word that his team would make the selection and Dyster accepted that mandate.
And the costs exploded.
Billing at $200 per hour, Robert S. Warshaw, president of Warshaw and Associates, made a visit to Niagara Falls on Feb. 6, stayed overnight, and left the next day.
Both before and after his visit, he charged additional hours to review documents and reports in preparation for his visit. The Reporter obtained the actual bill and discovered that Warshaw gave few details about what he did or what documents he reviewed.
All told, taxpayers paid $19,238.692 for Warshaw and two associates to make a visit to DalPorto and plan and review documents about the visit before and after the visit.
When Warshaw first got the job, the Reporter calculated that this kind of needless and politically motivated monitoring, slated as it was for "up to three years,” would certainly go on for at least three years. Companies like Warshaw never close out their lucrative jobs early, and with friends in the governor's office to protect them, the Niagara Falls job could wind up closer to $600,000 by the time the contract is concluded.
Although not officially admitting wrongdoing, Dyster publicly suggested the excessive force allegations were true when he expressed his "willingness to cooperate… to reform the (police to) prevent and remedy excessive force and race discrimination."
So, while the police never admitted to anything remotely approaching race discrimination, with that one public statement Dyster admitted it for them.
Sure, there were 30 complaints. Many of these, police sources said, came from rough and abusive criminals who claimed the police were too rough and abusive on them.
For his part, Dyster never explained his decision to accept Cuomo’s recommendation to appoint Warshaw, despite the fact that Warshaw was more expensive than other police monitoring companies.
One does not have to stretch the imagination to suspect that politics were in play.
Warshaw was the Rochester chief of police until 1998, when President Bill Clinton appointed him associate director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy.
Warshaw's deputy chief, Robert Duffy, then became police chief and later mayor of Rochester. Duffy returned the favor when he appointed Warshaw, his old boss, as the leader of the mayoral transition team, publicly referring to Warshaw as "my dear friend" as he announced the plum appointment.
In 2010, Cuomo ran for governor and selected Duffy to be his running mate. In November, 2010, just days after Cuomo and Duffy won election, the Niagara Falls consent order was signed while Cuomo was still attorney general.
Shortly after, Mayor Dyster sponsored, and the City Council approved, a resolution to enter into a contract with Warshaw paying the firm $200 per hour -- plus expenses.
Dyster, as mentioned above, said at the time that it would cost the city about $57,000 for the three months believed necessary to complete the simple consent order-required revisions to about 100 pages of documents. Since most police forces in the nation already have these policies, it was not considered difficult to revise them to meet the more progressive sensibilities of race-neutral policing.
As also mentioned above, in the first year alone Warshaw billed $165,962 and only stopped work last August after depleting every dime allotted in the 2012 budget.
Mayor Dyster, always eager to support his Albany friend Cuomo, proposed in his “disaster” budget giving Warshaw $150,000 for 2013.
However the three-member council majority - Sam Fruscione, Glenn Choolokian and Robert Anderson-- did not like the smell of it and cut it down to $75,000.
It cost the city more than $19,000 for a simple one-day visit.
But Warshaw has another $56,000 to burn through so they will be back again and soon.
|Niagara Falls Reporter - Publisher Frank Parlato Jr.||www.niagarafallsreporter.com||