You've got to hand it to Rick Pfeiffer and the Niagara Gazette. When they decide to be loyal to a criminal, they're really, really loyal.
It all started back on May 3, 2005, when the Niagara Falls Reporter broke the story of an FBI investigation into then-mayor Vincenzo V. Anello. We'd given the feds evidence that Anello had accepted $40,000 in payments from a downtown developer who was later gifted with highly favorable city contracts.
Since the Gazette passes itself off as the "paper of record" in Niagara Falls, and since Rick Pfeiffer pretends to be a hard-hitting crime reporter with deep and important contacts in all levels of law enforcement here, the natural reaction was to take Anello's side. Which they did with a vengeance.
Anello's immediate reaction was one of denial, and the Gazette ran it across the top of the front page. The Reporter article was "totally unfounded, false and defamatory," Anello said. A couple of days later, the mayor admitted to taking the money, saying it constituted a legitimate business loan, and that there was no link between that transaction and the sweetheart deals the developer received after Anello took office.
In the following months and years, Pfeiffer and his newspaper pretended that dozens of FBI raids at City Hall didn't occur by refusing to write about them. When Anello received an ACD and had an order of protection issued against him in connection with a criminal harassment case, Pfeiffer's article was headlined "Case Dismissed."
Whenever the Reporter broke a story about a new development in the case, Pfeiffer dutifully called his favorite felon for reaction. Anello told him the allegations would come to nothing and that he would then deal with those who had caused his discomfort.
Pfeiffer dutifully printed this horse manure under his byline on the front page of the Gazette, certain in the knowledge that his buddy Vince would never serve a day in jail.
You see, the criminals Pfeiffer gets a big kick out of publicizing are not mayors or bigshots of any other order. They are young street kids, mostly African-American in origin, who turn to crime because crooks like Anello have been robbing the city blind for decades.
Disadvantaged youth who can't afford the best lawyer in Western New York and have stolen something or dealt a little dope, because the jobs that used to sustain this city are gone, run out of town by a mob of City Hall denizens with their hands out. Pfeiffer is always eager to add to their misery and that of their families.
The Grand Island resident is so unused to dealing with people of color that he once referred to the Niagara Falls Six -- a group of black city workers who sued the city for discrimination and won an out-of-court settlement -- as the "defendants" in the case.
Most recently, since Anello copped a plea bargain that allowed him to plead guilty only to ripping off his union brothers at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Pfeiffer stuck his byline on articles lifted whole from 5-year-old copies of the Reporter, articles that implicated others as well as Anello in the ongoing City Hall corruption.
He hadn't written those articles in the first place, because his official position was that nothing wrong had happened. But now, pretending the information was new, he used the ancient information to make it seem as though his boy was simply caught up in a web of deceit spun by others.
The kicker came the week before Christmas, on the very day that U.S. District Judge William Skretny sentenced Anello to 13 months in federal prison and ordered him to repay $55,237 he stole from the union.
Pfeiffer's piece was headlined "More than 40 letters of support for Anello"!
One of those letters, of course, was from Anello himself. Pfeiffer quoted it dutifully, and so will I.
"Some people even question my accomplishments as mayor and look at me differently," the felonious former mayor wrote.
Make no mistake, Anello was allowed to plead guilty to ripping off the union in exchange for the charges relating to him taking bribes or kickbacks or whatever you want to call them while he sat on the City Council being dropped. Still, to this day, the Gazette will not admit Anello did anything wrong while he was involved in government here.
Three years ago, shortly before Anello was indicted, the Gazette pointed out that "the FBI has never publicly confirmed or denied the investigation is ongoing," and allowed him to take a shot at me, personally, in a retrospective powder-puffing of his miserable term in office.
"Where are the great investigative reporters now that this has been a dead issue? When it's all said and done, the FBI investigation will turn out to be a great lie," Anello was quoted as saying.
Well, I'm still here, still waiting for the former mayor's promised lawsuit for libel, slander and defamation to arrive. Anello's headed for Club Fed, where I predicted the FBI would put him all those years ago. And Rick Pfeiffer?
Rick Pfeiffer still wouldn't know a real story if it came up and bit him on the behind.
|Niagara Falls Reporter||www.niagarafallsreporter.com||Jan. 4, 2011|