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By Mike Hudson

"I was set up, it was as simple as that," said Department of Public Works Supervisor Clarence Bradley, who was arrested last week and charged with fraudulently accepting unemployment benefits while he was working for the city.

Bradley, who suffers from diabetes, fell ill late last October and was unable to return to work until the beginning of December. After his sick days and vacation time were exhausted, he filed for unemployment, collecting a total of $3,200, records show.

Someone at City Hall, quite possibly City Administrator Donna Owens, approved Bradley's unemployment request. The state does not issue unemployment checks without checking with the employer to see whether or not a claim is valid.

Last Tuesday, Owens called Bradley to City Hall. Inside her office he was met by Mayor Paul Dyster and a state trooper. "They wanted him to handcuff me, but he wouldn't," Bradley said of the trooper. "Then we walk out of the office, and there's Channel 2, Channel 4, the newspaper photographers, everything."

As Bradley was led away, Dyster held a press conference, once again bragging about how he was cleaning up city government.

Niagara Falls NAACP Director and former city administrator Bill Bradberry took a different view.

"This was tantamount to a lynching," he said. "What they did to Clarence is inexcusable."

Bradberry said he was so incensed by the incident, he is considering calls from within the city's sizeable black community to run for mayor himself.

"What's happened here is clearly a part of a pattern by this administration," he said. "While the mayor pays lip service in courting the black vote, his actions in this and other matters tell a different story."

Bradley has worked for the city Department of Public works since 2003, starting out as a part-time seasonal worker at the Hyde Park Golf Course and working his way up to a coordinator overseeing both park and street managers in 2006. In 2009, he was appointed assistant department director of Clean Neighborhoods and the Zone Outreach Objective Mission, or ZOOM, team.

"This type of conduct is not tolerated by this administration, and he will be placed on unpaid administrative leave until further notice," Dyster said.

The mayor used the same sort of setup to get rid of Guy Bax, the city building inspector who refused to carry out what he said were improper orders coming from the administration. But as one of the few black men working for the city in any capacity, Bradley may be able to get the kind of grassroots community support Bax was unable to muster.

Bradley, who is being represented by noted Buffalo attorney Thomas Eoannou, said he would do everything in his power to make sure Dyster doesn't get re-elected, to the point where he's encouraging his old friend Bradberry to run against him.

"I think the only black vote he's going to get is Donna Owens'," he said.

Niagara Falls Reporter www.niagarafallsreporter.com April 12, 2011