HAMILTON: Diodate is No ‘Cowart’!

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By: Ken Hamilton

Public corruption in Niagara Falls! Say that it just ain’t so.

Ah, but it is; and if Niagara Falls NY was the size of Buffalo then many would say that the FBI would have to put not less than 5 field offices here to deal with it. The question most citizens would ask is why our city has so very much of it, but for former Niagara Falls City Council administrative assistant Mark Diodate, the question is, if he is found guilty of attempting to pad his outgoing pay, could he get the same deal that former Niagara Falls Housing Authority executive director Stephanie Cowart got caught with her hand in the proverbial cookie jar for her much worse crime of padding the pay of her family members to a much higher degree and still not getting any -time in the hoosegow for it. 

Frankly, neither one of them would have fared well in jail: Cowart due to her fragilities nor Diodate because – well, because of he’s who he is. But will who-and-what they are have any impact upon the crime or the punishment?

While I didn’t get to know the affable Diodate until very recently, I have known Cowart for many years and found her to be an extremely bright and driven woman. When Michael Raymond, her former boss, was retiring, the commission was determined to vote to do a national search to replace him. Now, for all of those who think that the political place for African-Americans — and that we should stay in our place — is with the Democratic Party, it was when I was the treasurer for the Niagara Falls Republican City Party, I thought that Cowart deserved a chance to lead. We had several GOP committee members serving on the NFHA board; and while Democrats for Cowart were protesting out in front of the authority’s 744-10th Street headquarters, I was in the kitchens and living rooms of those members quietly and decisively changing their minds about the national search. Because partially on my efforts Cowart got the job, I have the right to say the following.

Because whenever the housing authority’s HOPE_VI partner, Norstar Development and their project manager Linda Goodman was lobbying the council, I too often saw Cowart in the chambers when none of the business impacted the housing authority.  I could only guess that she was supporting Goodman and seemingly keeping an eye on former City Councilman Charles Walker, who also once worked for the Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center — whose board upon which Cowart prominently served. After decades of community development work and political experience, and with Cowart’s very light sentencing, it led  me to think that the FBI’s investigation into Cowart didn’t go far enough. Even though, I suspected something far worse would come out of it than her nefariously enriching her family through no-show jobs – an employment policy that many area residents have come to believe to be standard operating procedure in governmental arenas in the city.  What then did Diodate allegedly do that was different?

Even if convicted, Deodate’s failure would have only initially cost the government a comparatively moderate $500.  By comparison, Cowart’s moral failure was initially more than 45-times that amount. But in the long run, the convicted Cowart would have likely remained at the help of the housing authority for another 10-years and with an earning potential of not less than 1.4 million dollars plus benefits.  Contrast that to an if-convicted Diodate, given inflation and him working until 69-years old or older, his lifetime earnings could have been much more.

Now comes the question of justice in the federal case of Cowart and the potential state case of an-indicted Diodate. As I explained in a recent Niagara Reporter column that it seems that I (a black man), after an argument with a militant lesbian, was likely punished by being cut loose from my previous writing gig and thereby asked the question if the “sympathies” of militant lesbians trump those of black men. I think that Diodate, if found guilty, could ask the question during sentencing if the “sympathies” of black women trump those of white men.

Good argument can and ought to be made by those outside of the legal system that white men have long had the privileges that neither black women or men have had, and that affirmative justice is itself justice; but we can all agree that our legal system should be more pure than that. If Diodate is convicted and sentenced to anything more than to what Cowart received in this post-Obama America, then I think that a double standard would have taken place and would doubly have to be fixed. All Americans should be treated equally before the law. And as Martin Luther King said, “Injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere,” and we Americans are indeed everywhere.

But Diodate is no Cowart. When it comes to that magnitude of what Cowart did (unto whom much is given, much is required), I suspect that she should have gotten more than what she did; and if Diodate is convicted, he should get whatever was commiserate with what Cowart should have gotten.

But one of the lessons in all of this for all of us is the proverbial, “”It ain’t what you know, it’s who you know”; to which I respond, then you all had better get busy knowing some folks – especially those in government to whom you have given over your own destinies. 

Bless her heart, Cowart knew a lot of influential people.


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