Council fires back at mayor, DPW on trees

Paul VanDenVouver says the administration is working on distractions.

Dunkirk’s top council member says the administration of Mayor Wilfred Rosas is playing the role of a “magician who distracts the audience with his right hand, while hiding the ball with his left” when it comes to the removal of a tree done by city workers on private property.

Paul VanDenVouver, councilman at-large, in a statement to the OBSERVER says he and council are looking for answers, not excuses after he released an eight-page report by council attorney Dan Gard that alleges there was work done in 2019 by city Department of Public Works employees over three days in August on private property at 10 Finch St. Gard’s recommendation in the report of the “large, unjustifiable and unconstitutional gift of municipal resources to a private individual” was to refer this matter to the appropriate enforcement agencies, recommending both the state comptroller’s office as well as the FBI’s Public Corruption Division.

A letter regarding the issue of the trees was sent to City Clerk Edwin Ramos. Initially, Ramos told the OBSERVER Thursday he never got it. “Nobody told me not to read a letter and it was not rejected,” he added, promising he would look through his “spam” folder to see if it went there.

Shortly thereafter, Ramos called back to say the letter had, indeed, gone to spam. “I do apologize, it will be read at the next meeting,” he said.

VanDenVouver, during the April 20 council meeting, said the probe on the work was done in response to council allegedly receiving reports from city residents about the happenings on Aug. 5, 6 and 15, 2019, at 10 Finch St. VanDenVouver, during that same meeting, said the work included 100 hours of manpower and four pieces of city equipment in the project that was estimated to cost taxpayers between $6,000 and $8,000.

Here is the complete response:

“Since the Perry Street report was made public, there have been several very inflammatory responses from the city administration. Our search for answers has been described as vindictive, malicious, character assignation, and the, ‘lowest level of human indecency.’ We’ve heard all about what horrible people we are for questioning the fact that public resources were utilized for private ends.

“But, like the magician who distracts the audience with his right hand, while hiding the ball with his left, the mayor believes that the residents of Dunkirk are going to be distracted by name calling and mischaracterizations. We urge the residents to read the report … and then examine the responses. Watch the attempts to make the ball disappear.

“Amid the pages of disparaging remarks and accusations, there are few facts. Instead of answering the question, ‘Who ordered the project?’ we are told that neither the mayor nor the DPW director are involved in the routine actions of the DPW. The mayor states that ‘Our DPW Streets supervisor schedules these tasks to his staff.’ But, the investigation revealed that Streets Supervisor Mike Porpiglia was on vacation when this project was ordered. In fact, in a March 29 comment to our attorney, Randy Woodbury (DPW director) stated, ‘Polygraph me any time, I gave you all I know but I have theories I will keep checking. Mike and I frequently call in during days off but if either of us knew of this project we would have stopped it.’ So, who ordered the project?

“(City attorney Richard) Morrisroe says that the important question is who owned the property when the work was performed? We agree, that is an important question and one which is answered by the deed examined during the investigation. On Jan. 4, 2019, seven months prior to the project, the property was transferred from the City of Dunkirk to Carl and Susan Lis. The deed itself, along with the recording information and a copy of the check, signed by Carl Lis on January 4, 2019, was not included in the public version of the report. It is ironic that we are now being criticized for redacting this personal information from the public version, while at the same time are accused of pursuing a vendetta against the property owner. The public can rest assured that the complete report, including the names of witnesses which were redacted due to fears of retaliation, has been provided to the proper authorities.

“Even Randy Woodbury, who claimed during the investigation, that he was completely unaware of the project and “would have stopped it,” has gotten into the magic show. He now waives distractions of easements and one ash borer ridden tree. But, keep your eyes on the ball. The pictures clearly show the removal of multiple healthy trees. The pictures also clearly show, what anyone passing by can still see; multiple trees on either end and a fence up the middle of the “easement” which Woodbury now claims needed to be cleared.

“No magician appreciates his secrets being shouted by his audience. As keepers of the public trust, it was our obligation to bring this to the attention of the public. Read the report. Then watch the attempts to distract from and justify the project that we are told nobody knew about or wants to take responsibility for.”

The report can be found with this article at www.observertoday.com as well as the response by Woodbury.

Editor John D’Agostino contributed to this report.


Perry St. Investigation Report


Photo additions to tree analysis


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