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Niagara Falls Council member Kristin Grandinetti, according to documents obtained by the Niagara Falls Reporter, has been wrongly listed on her health insurance opt-out paperwork, resulting in a scheduled overpayment of $6,186 in 2012.

After obtaining the document that shows the second-year Council member will be overpaid in 2012, the Reporter was able to confirm through Council Chairman Sam Fruscione that Grandinetti received the overpayment in 2011. According to Fruscione, Grandinetti will be required to repay the city more than $6,000 for overpayments made in 2011.

Here's how this works: The city of Niagara Falls employees who are covered elsewhere through the health insurance of their spouses -- or from another job -- have an opportunity to accept a monetary payment if they opt out of taking the city's health insurance coverage.

Grandinetti, who is a school teacher, has health insurance coverage provided through the Niagara Falls School District.

From a Buffalo News study published last month, we learned that the city of Niagara Falls pays the highest opt-out to its employees in the entire region -- as much as $9,713.16 -- about eight to nine times higher than they do in Buffalo, or in Erie or Niagara County.

Grandinetti, having a choice between taking her health insurance through the Niagara Falls School District or the city of Niagara Falls, chose to take health insurance coverage with the school district, since Niagara Falls pays more.

Funny, isn't it?

While people in Niagara Falls pay high taxes, and in many instances, do without health insurance for themselves and their families, there are city employees like Grandinetti and 48 others slated to receive a total of $420,097 -- not for health insurance -- but who are getting paid not to take health insurance.

It was Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster who negotiated and signed off on the high opt-out payment plan last year.

Dyster, just this past year, renegotiated and reached a five-year contract with union workers that allowed the opt-out payments to be at the highest rate in Western New York. He could have stopped it, or fought to reduce it, but it was, after all, an election year. He knew what he had to do: fight for the people or fight for his job.

Among the 49 who are getting the high opt-out payments are Corporation Counsel Craig Johnson, and Chris Mazur, a lawyer with the Corporation Counsel's office. Both will get $9,083 for not taking health insurance. But both plan to accept the city's generous dental health insurance plan -- declining a chance at another $52 per month -- which is what Dyster negotiated to pay city employees just for not taking dental insurance.

How sweet it is to work for a government where the benefits provided by over-burdened taxpayers are usually so much better than what the taxpayers can afford for themselves.

Indeed, isn't that a good definition of the kind of government you could expect in hell?

Two other department heads, David Kinney, head of the Department of Public Works, and Dean Spring, head of Purchasing, also opted out.

Now, to explain how Grandinetti got overpaid: She is listed in City Hall records as being scheduled to receive $9,713.16 in 2012 for opting out of a family plan health insurance policy, including the dental plan.

The problem is, according to multiple sources, Grandinetti is a single woman without children. She does not qualify for the family plan, but only for a single-person plan -- which would give her the much lower opt-out payment of $3,527.

In short, she is getting $6,186 more per year from the taxpayers than she is entitled to. Grandinetti did not return multiple calls from the Reporter.

Since the Reporter published the shocking facts about the so-called police officer shortage in Niagara Falls, no one has come forward to deny the truth of what we reported or explain why it is not an outrage.

There are 156 police officers on the Niagara Falls police force. However, only six are on patrol at any one time.

During three shifts per day, a grand total of only 18 officers patrol the streets in a 24-hour day. That means on average, there are about 100 police officers at desk jobs or special units or doing who knows what per day.

One police officer is assigned to City Hall, where no violent crime is known to have been committed.

In short, there is no shortage of police, there is a shocking shortage of police on patrol.

Clearly, police on patrol are the most potent crime deterrent and the best means of protecting people. That's where police should be, where taxpayers want them to be, on the streets in numbers needed to inspire confidence for law-abiding people and to strike fear into those craven-hearted subhumans who would prey upon the good people of this city.

For a city of this size, with its high and rising crime rate, doubling the number of police on patrol to 12 per shift (36 police officers per day on patrol) would barely be sufficient.

Six on patrol, it takes no police expert to tell you, out of 156 police, with 100 at desk jobs every day, all day, would be laughable if the results were not so dangerous.

Every day, a cadre of violent, vicious criminals are more and more taking over the streets -- the growingly mean streets of this city.

Although it is no laughing matter how the Niagara Holiday Market has turned into a mockery of taxpayers, an example of how they are consistently taken advantage of by developers and spendthrift elected officials, it has come to our attention that popular local Internet television host Sal Paonessa apparently could not contain his urge to make jokes at the Market's expense.

The Reporter caught these on various episodes of Paonessa's show, heard live weekdays at www.nbn7900 at 6:30 p.m. If you miss the live show, they are repeated throughout the day.

The initials "NBN," Paonessa said, stand for "No Bullshit Network."

Anyway, here are Sal's sick jokes:

Niagara Falls Reporter www.niagarafallsreporter.com Dec. 20, 2011