Niagara Gazette

Local News

February 21, 2013

CITY SPENDING: 'Tradition' continues for council meals

Niagara Gazette — It has become somewhat of a tradition over the years. 

City lawmakers spend part of their time between afternoon agenda review sessions and evening meetings dining out at area restaurants. 

Records on file with the city controller’s office show the bi-monthly meals are financed by Niagara Falls’ taxpayers. A sampling of recent bills submitted for reimbursement by council members show their meal-time choices range from dinner salads and bowls of soup costing a few dollars each to plates of shrimp penne and veal cutlet that are closer to the $20 range. 

Records show at least four city lawmakers and two city attorneys continued enjoying meeting-day meals following last April’s council decision to impose a freeze on discretionary spending in all departments. 

City lawmakers say the money they’ve spent on meals is modest relative to the city’s overall budget. 

They also argue the meals aren’t out of line, considering the volume of work done on what amounts to a part-time salary. 

“I think it’s a reasonable amount of money for 52 weeks of the year,” Councilman Sam Fruscione said. 

Records show the council accumulated a $3,436 dinner tab during the spending freeze which lasted from April 2 through Dec. 31, 2012. 

During the time period in question, the bulk of the meals involved current Council Chairman Glenn Choolokian and fellow council members Fruscione, Charles Walker and Robert Anderson Jr. as well as Corporation Counsel Craig Johnson and First Deputy Corporation Counsel Thomas O’Donnell. Some meetings have also included other invited guests, including, most recently, council legal advisor Mort Abramowitz. 

Councilwoman Kristen Grandinetti attended them as well prior to the imposition of the spending freeze.

“I stopped going because we were putting a spending freeze on and we were eating dinner on the public’s dime,” Grandinetti said.

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