It has to be a bit concerning when you hear that members of the Niagara Falls City Council heard about business going on in the city through a newspaper article.
That was the case this past week after news came out about an April agreement reached between the city administration and One Niagara owner Frank Parlato giving him six months to keep the nine-story glass building open and bring it into compliance with city codes.
What bothers us even more is council members asked about the agreement at a Monday meeting and were told the details can’t be disclosed.
Can’t be disclosed? It’s city business — despite the fact it was reached “to dispose of a criminal court case,” as Assistant Corporation Counsel Christopher Mazur told council members.
Mayor Vince Anello, City Administrator Daniel Bristol or any other city official shouldn’t be able to say they can’t discuss a deal. They’re dealing with taxpayer money and a city business. City residents have a right to demand and know the public’s business.
Intended or not, this type of back-room, no-tell agreement smells.
What we do know is that last year the city’s Department of Inspections cited Parlato for violating three city ordinances by operating a paid parking lot and allowing vendors to sell souvenirs on the property, all in violation of city ordinances. Parlato and the city signed a stipulation of settlement April 25 that gave him six months to align the building with the city’s regulations.
These days, Parlato’s operating such things as a parking lot, coffee house and souvenir shop in and around One Niagara’s first floor.
Meanwhile, the building has fallen behind $620,517 in unpaid city, school and county taxes and Parlato is now suing the city and state over a May 3 arrest, though he claims he won’t take any money if he wins his claim against the city.
It’s not that we’re against the deal struck between Parlato and city officials. We’re among those who want to see good things happen to One Niagara. It’s a key property in the city and is practically the first thing people see coming across the Rainbow Bridge.
What we want to see is deals like this kept above board and in front of those financing the deal: taxpayers.
City officials should be keeping the public and its duly elected representatives — the city council — informed. In addition, and equally important, we want to see the same deals offered to other businesses struggling with compliance code issues in the city.
Mary O’s, a soul food restaurant a local family had hoped to open on Niagara Street and then Main Street, has run into problems with code requirements in the two buildings they leased halting their plans. Where’s the mayor, his administrator and corporate council when the Mary O’s of the city need help? City officials claim the restaurant’s situation was different than One Niagara’s. OK, what about others being charged with improperly operating a public parking lot? What about the city’s own parking operations apparently being run in violation of city code?
If you’re going to help Parlato, you have to help the other guys, too. And most importantly, you can’t say you can’t talk about it.