Underground Railroad Interpretive Center casino funds defy transparency

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Five years after it was due to open, the Underground Railroad Interpretive Center on Whirlpool remains a mystery as to maintenance expenditures, exhibits and how much was really spent [and will be spent] to complete it.

Niagara Falls – The Underground Railroad Commission has been receiving $350,000 per year in dedicated casino revenue since 2009. At $350,000 per year for seven years that’s a total of $2,450,000. The money is set aside annually out of the casino revenue account to support and promote the Underground Railroad Interpretive Center. The center was supposed to open its doors five years ago but failed to do so after the project director was mysteriously removed from his city hall job by Mayor Paul Dyster.

Where’s the $2,450,000? Who’s managing it, what bank account is it in, has any, or all of it, been spent, and if so spent on what? Sources close to the Underground Railroad Commission have expressed concerns that the dedicated interpretive center funds may have been used to support the train station project. Has that happened? If so it would appear to be a clear violation of the terms of the casino revenue disbursement agreement.

As for the Underground Railroad Commission it’s been totally silent for the past five years and there’s a question as to whether the organization even exists anymore. Is the organization’s membership current in its appointments and is the commission operating within their bylaws? If the organization is defunct how can the casino revenue funds continue to be directed to a non existent organization?

As for the interpretive center it has yet to open its doors and remains – as far as anyone knows – mired in a years long contentious lawsuit between the city and the Resatarits Company regarding work performed during the rehabilitation of the interpretive center building.

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