May 17, 2011
From the publisher Frank Parlato Jr.
Last week, Dennis Virtuoso appeared on the Sal Paonessa Internet talk show -- the Niagara Broadcast Network, www.nbn7900.com -- to decry certain things written in this publication.
Among the noteworthy things Virtuoso told Paonessa was that he worked 60 hours a week at his City Hall job. This means Virtuoso gets 20 hours a week of overtime for his hybrid role as acting director of the Code Enforcement Department and as a code enforcement officer. He is presumably both a union member with rights to overtime and a department head with the right to assign work requiring overtime.
If Virtuoso billed city taxpayers for all these overtime hours, by our calculation he earns in excess of $100,000 per year. Guy Bax, the man he replaced, made $65,000.
Of course, it can be said Virtuoso is doing two jobs and perhaps saving the city money. The question, however, is one of potential conflict. Should Virtuoso earn overtime as a department head? All other department heads are on salary.
A head of a department, in this awkward, hybrid role, can increase his own pay by directing work to be done that requires overtime for himself. As director, he can determine, for instance, that a property requires an "emergency" demolition that must be done on a Saturday -- even though, in reality, DPW workers could make it safe by taping off the property until Monday, when he would, under his normal duties, supervise the demolition at regular pay.
An acting director who qualifies for overtime can direct himself to take plenty of overtime.
No one is saying that Virtuoso has done this, but rather that it is possible in such a situation. In the Dyster administration, conflicts like this bear looking into.
Many observers noted, by the way, that Virtuoso looked good on the Paonessa show, although not as good, of course, as Paonessa's comely co-host, Rosemary Mariglia.
Virtuoso was impeccably dressed and his hair coiffed to what could be called an enviable elegance, especially for writers with receding locks like some at the Reporter.
But jokes are hard to avoid and we might as well get them out of the way.
Virtuoso told Paonessa he has a department budget to support emergency demolitions. Contrary to rumors, he does not have a department budget to support his hairspray.
Being the city's chief code enforcement officer comes with certain dangers. Just the other day Mr. Virtusoso fell at a demolition site and fractured his hair.
He once asked his female hair stylist, "How do you like my new hairstyle?"
"You remind me of a hot Italian dish!"
"Who, Fabio Lanzoni?"
In any event, it is an absurd digression to talk about hair.
A clearly angry and frustrated Virtuoso told Paonessa he was going to sue Mike Hudson, this writer, the Niagara Falls Reporter and the people responsible for a robocall that called around his district attacking him. We haven't heard this much sue-ee talk since the Little Rock hog-calling contest.
Watching him, however, we knew we might be in a tough legal fight with a surprisingly well-coiffed, dark-haired politician of inestimable talent, leading some to wonder if this code enforcement acting director might actually dye by his own hand?
Just when you think it can't get any stupider, it often does. There is a movie being made about Niagara Falls, the filming to start soon under the direction of a Mr. Jobie Smith of Akron, Ohio.
Now, we have no comment on the upcoming movie, but it has a website, www.niagaramovieproject.com, that introduces the stars, or rather participants, with photographs and what might be in some cases self-written promos for each.
Some of the participants are former state assemblywoman Francine Del Monte; Mark Thomas, director of the Western District, New York State Office of Parks; Amy Ortman, manager at the Cave of the Winds; and Angela Berti, Marketing and Media Specialist for the State Park.
All of them, by the way, except one, have modest, factual descriptions of who they are and their roles in the community. For instance, of Don Glynn, it is written, "Glynn is a writer and columnist for the Niagara Gazette. He covers the tourism beat, but you might find him writing about local politics and general human interest as well."
The one exception to modesty is Mayor Paul A. -- for "awesome" -- Dyster, who is, in fact, listed first.
Here is what was written: "Paul Dyster, mayor of Niagara Falls, New York, is the city's first mayor to run on an 'Environmental' platform. As smart as he is handsome (a member of Mensa), he's not your ordinary politician. We need more men like this in office."
Dyster wasn't shy to tell them he was a member of Mensa, a "high IQ" society where people pay to get a certificate saying they are smarter than 98 percent of the rest of us.
The main reason, one suspects, people pay for membership and take supervised IQ tests for Mensa is the bragging rights, to be able to say, "I am more intelligent than, say, the voters of Niagara Falls."
Submitting to an IQ test, believing blindly in its validity, and joining a society to prove it shows in fact a rather inferior intelligence, and a gauche, if not crude, sense of manners.
If you are smarter than everyone else, you need not say so.
This is beside the point. Dyster not only told the movie-making people about being a member of Mensa, but perhaps wrote his bio himself.
Editor in Chief Mike Hudson had a different perspective.
"Yeah, that's a pretty stupid-looking fellow," Hudson said of the website picture of Dyster, while cataloging all the dumb things Dyster has done since becoming mayor. "Yeah, I'd say it is true. He is about as handsome as he is intelligent. They're both about equal."
Later in the day he asked me, "Did I say Dyster is about as stupid as he is goofy-looking, or vice versa?"