Niagara Gazette —
Council members who regularly attend the dinners noted that such meals have been covered by the city for years. They also suggested that because the meals are relatively low in cost they are not the type of items the council and Mayor Paul Dyster’s administration were looking to control through the spending freeze.
Choolokian argued that he and other lawmakers put in full-time hours despite only being paid $12,000. He described the Gazette’s questions about the meals as “nickel and diming.”
“It’s less than minimum wage,” he said. “I think that if we wanted to point fingers we could look at a lot of things the mayor is doing.”
Anderson also bristled at questions about the council’s dining habits, saying there are other areas of the city budget that are far more pressing.
“It’s a joke,” he said. “You’re talking about chump change.”
Anderson also pointed to the council members’ part-time salary, saying that for the council to get a meal between sessions is a small perk for a very tough job.
“Eight grand is not a lot of money when you’re spending on gas and telephone bills,” Anderson said.
The council bought meals from three local restaurants last year, including the Como, Donatello’s Restaurant and the Waldorf Niagara, with the funds being spent out of the council’s budgeted line for “local meetings,” according to the financial records.
Fruscione said all council meals have occurred at restaurants in the Falls.
“It’s a good way to reinvest in locally owned businesses,” he argued.
Grandinetti said she didn’t want to “pick on” the other council members who continue to attend the dinners, but said she feels that giving up the perk is a gesture of leadership and the right thing to do under the financial circumstances facing the city.