Million-Dollar Mystery: Mayor Hides Legal Fees from Council

Two points keep nagging me about Niagara Falls Mayor Robert Restaino’s plan to build an arena on NFR land – land he has gone to court to force the sale through eminent domain.

The location for the arena seems to be the mayor’s deliberate plan to favor the Seneca Nation over the local business community, since the tax-free sovereign nation will get the first crack at overflow from the arena.

Why would the mayor favor a sovereign but wealthy Indian nation that cannot vote for him over the taxpaying business in the city?

Seneca Niagara Resort and Casino, owned and operated by the rich and non-voting Seneca Nation

The second concerning matter is that the mayor has committed the city to spending millions in legal fees to fight in state court to take the land from NFR. The lawsuit will continue for years as they fight over the price.

The astounding thing is that the mayor has completely cowed the city council.

The people elected the council for the specific task of monitoring their money and being a check and balance to a mayor.

The mayor has refused to tell the council how much money he has spent on Buffalo attorneys Hudgson and Russ to take NFR land by eminent domain.

Is it one million, two million, or more?

He won’t say. It is illegal for him to withhold the amount of money his attorneys are being paid from the public. It is not his money. But it is the council’s responsibility to find out.

Restaino appears to have the council so intimidated that when he told the council they did not need to know how much he has spent, they did not make a peep.

One wishes former council members like Chris Voccio, Babe Rotello, Bob Anderson, Frank Soda, Candra Thomason, or Glenn Choolokian were still on the council. They would have demanded to know how much taxpayer money the mayor spent on outside lawyers, and they would have gotten answers.

In fairness to the previous mayor, Paul Dyster, he would have told them. The Reporter was not a fan of Dyster, but he had some grounding in fair government principles. He knew the system is based on elections and checks and balances. The mayor is not king.

Former Mayor of Niagara Falls, Paul Dyster

But can we blame Restaino? What kind of council is the present council, anyway? Are they elected to monitor spending, or are they a bunch of dimwitted amateurs unable to demand what they have the right to know legally? Can they not determine what the mayor spent on outside attorneys?

Restaino spent a lot of money on Buffalo lawyers, so much that he will not reveal how much. He has no legal standing to withhold that information.

If former council chairman Sam Fruscione was on the council, and the mayor told Sam he would not disclose how much he spent on Buffalo lawyers, Fruscione would have turned Restaino into a slice of rare roast beef.

In three minutes, Restaino would know the council chairman isn’t bluffing. In ten minutes, he’d be providing the council with how much money he actually spent. Within half an hour, Fruscione would be drawing up a resolution requiring Restaino to get council approval (as is the law) before he authorized any more expenditures for Buffalo lawyers.

Former Councilman Sam Fruscione, would have taken Restaino to task

Who would have thought we’d look back and call the Dyster administration the good old days. Compared to the sneaky ways of the current mayor, a rule or ruin kind of savagery, that seems on the verge of seething, where nobody can know nothing the mayor does not want to tell them, where the council is a passive gaggle of sterile geldings and the city continues to decline, while this Nero of Niagara Falls fiddles around with a fantasy arena and washes the faces of his Buffalo friends.

Read also:

Niagara Falls Mayor Restaino Tries to Block $1.5B Data Center for Dubious Arena Plan

Something Has Been Worked on With Mayor’s Fishy Event Center Scheme, But What?

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