Niagara Gazette


May 17, 2010

Shedding light on the Vanguard

Parlato says he is interested in purchasing paper

LEWISTON — A vengeful mystery publication, criticized for its often racist and misogynistic scribings, now has a face — and a potential buyer.

The Vanguard, a monthly newspaper previously distributed anonymously in the Lewiston community, has depicted President Barack Obama dressed in a Nazi uniform and Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown eating fried chicken, but many of the attack’s are focused on members of the local Lewiston community, predominantly the school district.

That could all change. Real estate developer and One Niagara owner Frank Parlato Jr. has confirmed to the Gazette his interest in buying the Vanguard and turning it into a legitimate newspaper, but with some changes.

The publiction has focused on the Lewiston-Porter Teacher’s Union and its supporters, as well as powerful Niagara County Republican Henry Sloma, along with his daughter, former Lew-Port school board member and assistant district attorney Heather DeCastro.

One Vanguard founder said those attacks are no coincidence.

“We are looking to expose these people,” said Lenny Palumbo, also a former Lew-Port school board member. “All the people who are involved (with the Vanguard) weren’t getting any attention for the problems they were having, whether it was the police, the school district and that is the reason why we started the paper.”

Lew-Port school board candidate Jodee Riordan, one of the newest targets of the Vanguard, said it’s a tool to intimidate people.

Since submitting her petitions for school board, Riordan said her mailbox has been flooded with the Vanguard on several different occasions.

“It has brought a negative reputation on the district, it’s disgraceful,” she said. “All of the attacks are so personal and so demoralizing to the community.”

Palumbo said more than a dozen people work with the Vanguard in different capacities. He said the paper, which costs around $700 for 10,000 copies, is printed at Buffalo Newspress Inc. on Broadway Street in Buffalo. A representative from Newspress would not confirm the Vanguard is printed at their facility or provide information confirming who pays for it. He also would not comment on the content printed in the publication.

Palumbo said each writer contributes between $75 to $80 each time it is printed, but just one person writes the check.

Controversial school board candidate Ed Lilly, who is rumored to be among the individuals financing the publication, said he does not contribute financially at all to the Vanguard.

Lilly’s role with the Vanguard is still unclear but Palumbo said Lilly became involved after a family member’s run-in with the state police.

“Ed (Lilly) got involved because his mother-in-law had a problem with a state trooper,” Palumbo said. “That’s how Ed (Lilly) came to it.”

State trooper Benjamin Campbell, who has been linked to a number of run-in’s with Lilly and his family, was targeted by the Vanguard in July and August 2009.

Despite many of the Vanguard’s targets having known public disagreements with Lilly, he said he has never written for the Vanguard, though he did admit to providing the paper with information.

“I supply the facts to any interested media person and they write what they want,” Lilly said.

Confidential school board-related documents and information are found on the pages of the Vanguard, Lilly said it couldn’t be attributed to him but did say he supports confidential information making it into the paper.

“It’s taxpayers’ money and there is nothing confidential about how it is being spent,” Lilly said.

Current Board Members Robert Weller, Ed Waller and Lewiston Resident Alan Ward denied any connection to the Vanguard, but Weller did support the views of the paper.

“I never contributed to an article or wrote an article, any information in executive session is confidential,” Weller said. “I believe 100 percent in the first amendment.”

The Vanguard is often distributed in the middle of the night and is left on driveways or in mail boxes of residences in the Towns of Lewiston and Porter.

Lilly said he is happy to pass along the information because he believes it is oftentimes truthful. Most recently, Lilly was seen distributing the publication to Lew-Port High School students at a meet the candidates night.

Palumbo said the paper doesn’t just focus on school board-related issues, members from local political parties approached the Vanguard during the last election season looking for press slanted in their favor.

“There are political type people who contributed to the paper during one of the last elections, for you know, certain types or stories being covered,” Palumbo said.

All of the writings in the Vanguard are done anonymously using ghost names, Palumbo said this is done not because the information is false, but for fear of retribution from public officials or the police.

“We said from the beginning we wouldn’t print anything from rumor or innuendo, we’d have to be as close to sure as we could be just like any reporter would be,” Palumbo said.

Palumbo would not tell the Gazette the names of any other writers involved.

Teacher’s Union President Kevin Jaruszewski said not only is the publication racist but it paints Lewiston as a whole in a negative light.

“The Vanguard promotes hate against African Americans, women, Jews and homosexuals. Ed Lilly has publicly stated that this fake newspaper tells the truth, and said he is proud to pass it out,” Jaruszewski said. “This is a great community, and it is sad to see it painted in such a negative light because of this publication.”

Parlato’s interest could lead to changes for the Vanguard.

“I have a positive interest in looking at the publication and might be looking at taking it over,” he said. “I will bring a new editorial direction and do not condone some material of the past.”

Parlato said when he is involved his name will be on it and so will the names of anyone who contributes to the paper.

The paper which currently has no advertising revenue and is distributed free of charge doesn’t have an official price tag and Parlato would not detail what his financial contribution would be.

Sloma has hired a private investigator to determine who is the financer of the publication and said he will take quick legal action when and if the time comes.

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