Brown Gets Bum’s Rush Here As Owens Hangs On For More Cash

by Mike Hudson

Inquiring minds want to know: What’s the big hurry to get City Controller Maria Brown out of office next week when Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster is letting City Administrator Donna Owens hang around until July 8?

Both women were canned by the mayor in the same press release on May 16.  Replacing Brown, who Dyster said will stay on with the city in the role of senior auditor, will require a majority vote by the city Council. Dyster can have whomever he wants as city administrator and, in the same press release, stated that he wants the politically savvy Nick Melson, whom he hired as an “executive assistant” in the run-up to last year’s election to help him in his campaign.

In 2008, the Council unanimously voted to approve a whopping 83.3 percent pay increase for the city administrator’s job, which brought the salary to $110,000. Dyster sold the radical pay hike on the premise that it would be partly funded by a Buffalo-based foundation.

Mayor Paul A. Dyster wants to get rid of longtime city controller Maria Brown (above) who has continuously criticized the mayor’s spending and the $12 million plus annual budget deficit.

Mayor Paul A. Dyster wants to get rid of longtime city controller Maria Brown (above) who has continuously criticized the mayor’s spending and the $12 million plus annual budget deficit.

Owens was then working as deputy commissioner in the Office of Solid Waste Services for the Atlanta Department of Public Works, was chosen after a four-month national search, Dyster said.

The national search and $35,000 of Owens’ salary was to have been paid through the Community Foundation of Greater Buffalo’s Build a Better Niagara Fund, which had been set up earlier that year by private, anonymous donors to conduct a national merit-based search and to attract new candidates to top government positions during Dyster’s four-year term.

Ultimately, the city Council – still stinging from the scandal that rocked the administration of former mayor Vince Anello – thought the better of accepting money from anonymous donors who may or may not have been actually doing business with the city, and the entire burden of Owens’ salary fell on the shoulders of Niagara Falls taxpayers.

In 2013, the Council cut Owens salary to $75,000 a year.

But why the devil would Dyster want Owens to stay until July 8? It’s pretty simple, really. She began working for the city the first week of July, 2008.

It is also sly that Mayor Dyster is firing full time city controller Maria Brown and hiring a part time controller: Sandy Peploe (above). While the Mayor spends taxpayers’ money full time, he seeks to hire a part time controller. A controller is the fiscal watchdog for a municipality.

It is also sly that Mayor Dyster is firing full time city controller Maria Brown and hiring a part time controller: Sandy Peploe (above). While the Mayor spends taxpayers’ money full time, he seeks to hire a part time controller. A controller is the fiscal watchdog for a municipality.

By allowing her to stay past her anniversary date, she will wring an extra year’s worth of vacation time, sick days and retirement benefits out of city taxpayers.

It remains unclear whether Dyster has the votes on the Council to kick the well liked and respected Brown to the curb. She has served as city controller for the past 16 years, in the administrations of mayors Dyster, Anello, Elia and Galie.

Scrupulously honest, Brown’s loyalty has always been to the city taxpayer rather than whomever happens to occupy the mayor’s office on any given day. This has been the key to her longevity.

But not anymore. Her criticism of Dyster’s out of control spending, particularly in the area of the largely discretionary casino revenue funding has embarrassed the mayor who would rather have someone personally loyal to him.

To that end, he is bringing former controller Sandy Peploe out of retirement as apart time controller. Peploe currently receives a $70,000 city pension, and whatever she gets as acting controller will be but icing on the cake.

Everybody wins.

Except Maria Brown.

And the taxpayers of Niagara Falls.

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11 Comments

  1. Jason Wheeler says:

    Good old Niagara Falls. There has never been a shortage of corrupt political hacks in this fine city. Some traditions just never die.

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