<<Home Niagara Falls Reporter Archive>>



Alicia M. Laible is Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster's hand-picked candidate for Niagara Falls City Council.

Laible got the endorsement of the city Democratic Committee, a motley group of Dyster supporters, led by former state assemblywoman Francine Del Monte, who lives in a mansion in Lewiston; lawyer Craig Touma, whose wife was appointed City Court judge by Dyster and who sources say owns an elegant chalet in Ellicottville; and, of course, Dyster's wife, Rebecca.

Among these is puppet-chairman David Houghton, who was fired recently from his $10-per-hour job at ParMed for, in effect, alleged theft of time/services from his employers. Also, Houghton was evicted recently from his $400-a-month apartment on Zito Street.

Dyster, who lives with his wife in a fancy home on Orchard Parkway -- a street he got taxpayers to pay $13,500 to get designated historic -- wants you to believe the city committee runs independently and true to its alleged purpose, which is to get the best and brightest Democrats to win elected office.

For instance, when the Democratic Committee endorsed Laible over incumbent Bob Anderson -- perhaps one of the most productive Council members in the city's history -- Dyster and his committee said it was because they believed the 27-year-old Laible was more qualified than Anderson, a distinguished veteran and former union president who donates his Council salary to charity every year.

Anderson said he believes he did not get the endorsement because he would not pledge to support Dyster.

"It was like being asked to join the Gestapo or Mussolini's forces," he told the Reporter.

The Democratic Committee also did not endorse Council candidate Glenn Choolokian, who told the Reporter he was asked if he would promise to vote as Dyster directed.

Choolokian said, "A Council should never blindly support a mayor. To do that is to render the Council useless."

On the other hand, Laible proudly told the committee, as she told the Reporter, she "supports" what Dyster "has done during his first term in office."

Laible, incidentally, has been accused of a violation of residency requirements, allegedly having moved to Niagara Falls from Buffalo only after she was recruited to run for Council. The city charter requires a one-year residency as a registered voter prior to running for Council. Laible denies she lived in Buffalo and says she lived with her parents in Niagara Falls.

What is not in dispute is that in late May, Laible moved into the Jefferson Apartments on Rainbow Boulevard, a favorite haunt of temporary city residents imported by Dyster. City Administrator Donna Owens, from Atlanta, rents there. Former fire chief Roger Melchior, from Florida, lived there -- for a minute -- until he was fired for making racial slurs and promptly left town. Indeed, it seems anyone who needs to establish quick residency can get a place there at, perhaps, reduced rates on the friends-of-Dyster plan.

For his part, Dyster has been good to the accommodating landlord of the Jefferson, Shawn Weber, a bright businessman who has received low assessments on property he owns and large grants of money from the Dyster administration.

Dyster seems to have been generous with young Laible too. She got not only a new apartment at the Jefferson, but a new job as well.

Before she agreed to run for Council, she listed Horizon Health of Buffalo on her Facebook page as her employer. After she became a candidate, she removed the name Horizon and wrote she is employed as a "social worker for a multi-disciplinary team which provides services to older adults in Niagara County." She did not name her new employer on Facebook.

When asked, Laible told the Reporter she now works at the offices of the Health Association of Niagara County, Inc. (HANCI), located at 1302 Main St. -- a short distance from City Hall, the mayor's home, and her own new apartment -- which provides services to older adults. Laible said she does not work directly for HANCI, but that her job is located inside their building.

Jeff Paterson was acting director and currently is director of communications and advancement for HANCI. Paterson also serves on Dyster's campaign team as chief media, public relations and promotions person. Laible got what appears to be a publicly funded job in the same offices as Dyster's campaign public relations director. It is not known whether Laible's job requires her to show up infrequently, or not at all.

Dyster, of course, wants you to believe her getting her new job was based entirely on merit and that it is a mere coincidence she got a job where she works alongside his public relations man, at the same time she is running for elected office on the same ticket.

I don't know about you, but I personally will not vote for a man who lies to me. It just can't be good for my city. Speaking of good for the city, one might consider that Dyster's record of selecting outsiders to come here and run Niagara Falls has been a disaster. It includes an economic director ($150,000 with benefits) from Ohio, Peter Kay, who could not get a single private-sector job to locate here; an Underground Railroad museum "expert" from Buffalo, Kevin Cottrell ($104,000 with benefits), who has no museum experience; a chronically unemployed man from Florida as fire chief, Roger Melchior ($110,000 with benefits), fired for making racial slurs; an unlicensed engineer from Los Angeles, Ali Marzban ($120,000 with benefits), fired for not having a license; a second engineer from Lewiston, Tom Radomski, who had to resign for non-residency; a Buffalo lawyer, Craig Johnson ($130,000 with benefits), who subs out legal work he should be doing to Buffalo lawyers who donate to Dyster's campaign; and the ultimate choice that skewed pay upward at City Hall and helped require a tax increase -- the virtually invisible and inept former garbage collection bureaucrat from Atlanta, Donna Owens, as city administrator ($160,000 with benefits).

Unqualified outsiders who have no commitment to living here or making this city their home are getting well over $100,000 a year, outsiders who will leave this city the moment they lose their jobs, which by most accounts will be in less than four months when the new mayor is sworn in.

Is Laible another foolish Dyster import?

Laible told the Reporter she is not. She said she will be an independent Council member, despite the fact she carried Dyster's nominating petitions door to door trying to get signatures for him and appears in photographs in campaign mailers alongside Dyster.

She said people were happy to sign her petitions. When asked how people were reacting to signing Dyster's petitions, she said, "No comment."

This perhaps confirms what appears to be a widely held opinion that Dyster's fortunes have tumbled in recent months.

Still, wealthy interests from Buffalo have a lot at stake and line up in droves to give Dyster $1,000 at a clip for his campaign. This in turn permits Dyster to spend tens of thousands on mailers criticizing his primary mayoral opponent John Accardo, along with Laible's opponents -- Anderson and Choolokian -- all fellow Democrats. Mailers cost, with postage and printing, an estimated $5,000 each run. About a dozen have been sent already. Next time you read one of these mailers, consider that most of Dyster's donors are from Buffalo -- business people who have gotten and hope to get more taxpayer-funded work in your city.

An interesting tidbit to ponder: Buffalo interests pay for these mailers saying how honest Dyster is and how bad his opponents are. It would be naive indeed to believe they do not expect something in return.

As Council Chairman Sam Fruscione said, "Every public grant, award, contract or appointment Dyster makes is tied to his campaign."

Dyster was elected in 2007 on a platform of "I'm here to change politics as usual."

He did.

He has taken politics to an unusual level.

Buffalo interests are betting Niagara Falls voters are not paying attention.

Niagara Falls Reporter www.niagarafallsreporter.com Sept. 6, 2011