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AUGUST 19 - AUGUST 27, 2014

Vince Anello and Me: A Brief History

By Mike Hudson

August 19, 2014

Mike Hudson Vince Anello

To say that the relationship between former Mayor Vince Anello and the Niagara Falls Reporter is complicated would be an understatement.

He's written for this newspaper and advertised in it. When he was serving on the city council during the administration of former Mayor Irene Elia, the Reporter's editorial position most often came down in support of his sometimes withering criticism of Elia's policies. And when he ran for mayor in 2004, the paper endorsed him wholeheartedly and was somewhat helpful in his defeating the incumbent by what was then the largest margin in Niagara Falls mayoral history.

But after he took office, things went south fairly quickly. You might say he was doing what he thought was best for the city or you could say he forgot who his friends were, but, in any event, the Reporter and the newly elected mayor rarely saw eye to eye on anything. It didn't take long before things got ugly.

One sunny morning in May 2005, I found myself driving out to the Tuscarora reservation. Smokin' Joe Anderson's ex-wife, Gail Anderson, had called the office and said she wanted me to do a story about how her husband wasn't paying what he was supposed to in child support. It wasn't the kind of story I would usually do but it was such a beautiful morning and the idea of a drive in the country seemed very appealing.

When I arrived at the small smoke shop she ran, there were financial documents everywhere. Suitcases full of them. She said the ones pertaining to the child support payments were among them, but she didn't know quite where. While she searched for them, I passed the time looking at the others.

It wasn't long before I came across three canceled checks, all made out to my old friend Vince. They totaled $40,000, and were accompanied by internal documents called check request forms filled out by Michael Gawel, who was working for Anderson then but who had in another life been an attorney and accountant who served on the Niagara Falls City Council until he was busted by the FBI and sent to prison.

The documents aroused my suspicion, not just because they had Gawel's name attached to them, but because the reason for the payments was variously listed as "campaign contribution," "loan" or "electrical work." On at least one of them, reasons were crossed out and others substituted.

I asked Gail if she could photocopy the canceled checks and the request forms for me. She did, and I got the hell off the reservation as quick as I could. I never did get around to doing the child support story.

When I got back to the office, my hands were shaking. I knew the documents were dynamite. It didn't take long to figure out what to do. After making a few copies that are probably still hidden in the drop ceiling of our old offices on Buffalo Avenue, I called the FBI.

An agent came by and looked at the documents. He listened to the story of how I came to be in possession of them and took a lot of notes. I'd worked with the Buffalo office of the FBI during the investigation of Laborers Local 91 a couple of years previously so they knew I wasn't some sort of crackpot, and their investigation of Anello began in earnest. A few days later, I wrote a story about it for the paper.

It was a bad day for Anello and the city. The investigation would drag on for the rest of his term.

The public corruption charges finally came after Paul Dyster was elected mayor. Anello fought them, but was then charged with another federal offense relating to falsified paperwork submitted to the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers relating to some contracting he was doing.

He pleaded guilty in that case, the public corruption charges were dropped and he did a short stretch in federal prison.

Until last week, the last time I talked to Anello was at City Hall a year or two before he left office. He held a news conference in the lobby to announce that he was rescinding Niagara Falls Redevelopment's "preferred developer" status, and we had a brief and testy exchange when I tried to ask a question.

But you never know what's going to happen next. Local community activist Ken Hamilton runs a Facebook page called Niagara Community Forum, which both Anello and I visit on occasion. Vince promotes his radio talk show and I plug stories I write for the newspaper and, up until this weekend, we've pretty much managed to ignore each other.

I wrote something on the page and a commenter dragged Vince's name into it so he responded and before too long I was called upon to give my true opinion of Vince, which I did. I wrote that, being familiar with Mayors Jake Palillo, Jimmy Galie, Irene Elia and Paul Dyster as well as Anello, I thought Vince was the best of the lot and that the people of Niagara Falls could do a lot worse than to forgive him his sins and re-elect him.

This apparently stunned Hamilton, who deleted my post after a few hours. I asked him why but he didn't really have a satisfactory explanation.

Vince wrote me chuckling about the whole thing and I wrote him back and by the end of the day we were talking on the telephone. We had been good friends once, before all the trouble.

I like the guy, what can I say?





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Contact Info

©2014 The Niagara Falls Reporter Inc.
POB 3083, Niagara Falls, N.Y. 14304
Phone: (716) 284-5595

Publisher and Editor in Chief: Frank Parlato
Managing Editor: Dr. Chitra Selvaraj
Senior Editor: Tony Farina