Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster's record with the city engineer's office has been, to put it mildly, a bleeding disaster.
A new lawsuit filed by former City Engineer Jeffrey Skurka details the ways in which the mayor's never- ending quest for political expediency has a tendency to override whatever small desires he might have for doing the right thing, being honest or acting like a man.
First, a little history is in order.
On the day Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster took office, Jan. 1, 2008, he fired City Engineer Bob Curtis. The city had no engineer for the next 15 months and the incredibly costly North Main Street courthouse was built without the benefit of a licensed city engineer.
On March, 30, 2009, Dyster hired Ali Marzban, an Iranian immigrant from Los Angeles.
Five months later, Dyster fired Marzban following a Niagara Falls Reporter expose that revealed Marzban did not have a license to practice engineering in New York State or anywhere else in the United States.
During Marzban's time in office, however, he was permitted to sign off on the disastrous Lewiston Road project.
Dyster again had no engineer until January, 2010, when he hired Tom Radomski. Seventeen months later, he fired Radomski for being in violation of the city's residency ordinance.
The mayor appointed Jeffrey Skurka in July 2011 and fired him last April, for the most part due to Skurka's public criticisms of the Lewiston Road and Buffalo Avenue rebuilding projects.
Skurka, who was hired in July 2011, was fired after what his lawsuit says was a run-in with Mayor Paul A. Dyster and City Administrator Donna D. Owens over the Lewiston Road reconstruction project.
The lawsuit contends that Skurka was fired in retaliation for his actions regarding safety violations on Lewiston Road and in violation of whistle-blower provisions of the state Civil Service Law.
Skurka said he inspected the project in November, 2012, and saw what he considered dangerous work conditions, namely trenches more than five feet deep that weren't braced to protect workers from cave-ins.
Skurka's suit contends that he raised the issue with Accadia, which didn't respond and, according to the suit, called Dyster to complain about Skurka's intervention.
The lawsuit, filed in State Supreme Court by attorney Josephine A. Greco of Buffalo's Greco Trapp law firm, charges that Owens told him on Nov. 15, 2012, not to visit the Lewiston Road project again.
So Skurka then called the Buffalo office of the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration to complain about the trenches. OSHA inspected the job on the next day and announced that it was planning to fine Accadia $84,000 for safety violations, despite Dyster and Owens' overriding attempts to sweep the matter under the run.
The lawsuit seeks to get Skurka's old job back and to collect around $150,000 in lost wages and benefits. Since it is highly unlikely that Dyster will man up to being wrong in his dismissal of the former city engineer, some sort of wrongful termination settlement is likely as well, and the whole fiasco seems likely to cost Niagara Falls taxpayers several hundred thousand dollars at least.