Sources have said that John Caso will be named the Acting Director of the DPW following the retirement of DPW Director David Kinney this week.
Caso began at the DWP during the administration of Jacob "Jake" Palillo, who served as mayor from 1991-1995.
Caso is currently the DPW's deputy director.
The Niagara Falls Reporter encourages promotion through the ranks - as opposed to hiring outsiders as allegedly "the best and brightest." We believe "the best and brightest" for any community are usually the people who live here and call it home.
We believe raising people from the ranks inspires workers because it proves that people can rise though the ranks through hard work and initiative.
By all accounts Caso is one of the hardest workers ever seen at the DPW.
Overall, the DPW is the most visible city department in that virtually everything in its command impacts the average resident: snow removal; street conditions; street paving; tree maintenance; sidewalk repair; city park maintenance; city parking lots and city parking ramp; Hyde Park and Hyde Park golf course and more.
Caso will have his hands full. The snow removal season is in play, the trash and recycling program is far from settled, the parks have deferred maintenance, the golf course needs work, and streets are - well - what can we write about the streets that hasn't been written?
The new DPW director will have to work hand in glove with Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster to pave streets, fix sidewalks, maintain parks, get the golf course up to par and a whole lot more in this mayoral election year and in tune with the mayor's election campaign needs.
Is that man Caso?
Dyster, in his bid to get reelected this year, has, sources say, considered bypassing Caso as director because he is a white man.
Multiple sources told the Reporter that Dyster campaign operatives approached political consultants, black ministers and others in the black community about the advisability of hiring someone for the top DPW post simply because that person is black - if it would help pick up black votes.
As of press time Dyster has not accepted this racist notion and may go with merit instead of racial politics.
Ironically one of the blacks the Dyster team reached out to for possible rehire - although not necessarily as director of the DPW was former DPW employee Clarence Bradley.
Bradley admitted he was contacted by a Dyster ally - who he asked us not to name - who approached him about returning to the DPW - possibly as director - to aid Dyster in picking up black votes.
"I would consider coming back to work" Bradley said.
Bradley Drops Lawsuit
Readers of the Reporter may recall that Bradley was escorted out of City Hall. His return would be an ironic full circle since
Bradley initiated a lawsuit against the city for discriminatory firing.
According to his attorney Steven Cohen, Bradley dropped the lawsuit last July.
"It was my understanding that Clarence Bradley did not want his former colleagues and associates placed in the awkward position of having to testify against Mayor Dyster so he chose not to proceed," Cohen said, adding that Bradley may have forwent winning considerable damages "to protect individuals who would have been put in a position to testify against the City of Niagara Falls."
The Bradley Saga
Before his firing in 2011, Bradley worked for the DPW starting in 2003 as a part-time seasonal worker at the Hyde Park Golf Course and worked his way up to coordinator. By 2005, Bradley became a union steward. In 2009, he was appointed assistant department director of Clean Neighborhoods and the Zone Outreach Objective Mission, or ZOOM, team.
What got him in trouble was a matter of some controversy.
According to Bradley, who suffers from diabetes, he fell ill in the autumn of 2009 with a blood sugar count of 704, putting him nearly in a coma. He was rushed to Mount St. Mary's Hospital, where he stayed for several weeks.
While recuperating, he exhausted his sick and personal leave time and filed for unemployment. His supervisor, DPW Chief Kinney, approved it. There was a lag time between when he applied for unemployment and when he got his checks.
It later turned out that he was not eligible for unemployment, because he was not unemployed. He was on unpaid leave.
Ultimately, Bradley got $3,200 more than he was technically entitled to, between October and December 2009, when he was in and out of the hospital.
"I thought the city approved it, if I got the check, it was approved," said Bradley.
Bradley returned to work in February 2011. Shortly after, a routine audit revealed that Bradley had collected the overpayment. Dyster said he called upon the state Department of Labor to investigate.
On the morning of April 5, 2011, a plainclothes officer from the New York State Bureau of Criminal Investigation came to City Hall seeking Bradley's address in order to issue him an appearance ticket on charges arising from his illegally receiving unemployment benefits.
Learning the police officer was at City Hall, the mayor proposed to summon Bradley. City Administrator Donna Owens contacted Bradley and instructed him to come to her office, without disclosing the purpose of the meeting. Bradley said he had no idea he had done anything wrong. While the officer waited in another office, the mayor called the local media to tell them that an arrest was imminent at City Hall.
In the waiting room outside her office, Owens, City Attorney Craig Johnson and City EEOC Officer Ruby Pulliam, came in, followed by the state Police detective. Once inside the office, Owens began to accuse Bradley, he contends.
"The officer then handed me an appearance ticket," Bradley said, "and we were about to leave, when Donna Owens and Craig Johnson both said at once, 'Wait, aren't you going to handcuff him?' The officer wouldn't. 'He doesn't have a record.' They argued with him. Johnson was upset. He said, 'You have to.' Owens said, 'The mayor wants you to handcuff him.' The officer got upset. He said, 'No. I serve 15 of these a month, and we don't handcuff people for appearance tickets.'"
Meantime, outside the city administrator's office, in the lobby, Mayor Dyster gathered members of the media and placed them in advantageous positions to film Bradley as he came out of Owens' office - presumably in handcuffs.
Bradley continued, "I had agreed to go down to the barracks with the police officer and get fingerprinted and then be arraigned. As the officer and I walked out of the office, not handcuffed, there's Channel 2, Channel 4, the newspaper photographers, everyone, all coming around filming me. The police officer said to me, 'I've never seen anything like this. They really railroaded you.'"
As Bradley left City Hall, Mayor Dyster held a press conference, telling the media he was cleansing city government from corruption and Bradley was suspended without pay.
Five months later, Bradley pleaded guilty to a single count of petit larceny in a deal with the Niagara County District Attorney's Office that spared the unemployed man from an expensive trial. He gpot three years probation.
"We (officially) fired him," Mayor Dyster told the Niagara Gazette. "This type of conduct is not tolerated by this administration."
In any event, last year Bradley dropped the lawsuit. This year Kinney is retiring, Caso is stepping up as Acting Director of the DWP and Bradley was asked to return.