That was our reaction last week after City Council Chairman Chris Robins expressed his desire to reinstate Building Commissioner Guy Bax, Chief Plumbing Inspector George Amendola and Electrical Inspector Pete Butry as part of the ongoing 2010 budget deliberations. A majority of Council members are likely to back his proposal.
The three men were suspended last July by Mayor Paul Dyster following an FBI investigation into whether or not the Inspections Department was controlled by local plumbing contractor John Gross.
No charges have been brought against anyone involved in the case, and Bax, Amendola and Butry have been receiving full pay since then. Dyster, who has been shown to be in the pocket of the Buffalo interests represented locally by Maid of the Mist owner James Glynn, was apparently as eager for headlines as he was to eliminate Bax, who held the mayor's friends to the same standards as everyone else.
In fact, many suspect Dyster to have been the "rat" who prompted the federal raid on City Hall in the first place.
Given that neither the FBI nor the U.S. Justice Department has issued so much as a peep about the case since that overcast July morning, and that no grand jury has been convened to hear any evidence concerning the case, Council members have been faced with the prospect of paying Bax, Amendola and Butry until time immemorial unless charges are preferred and convictions are obtained.
Dyster's rush to judgment has already cost city taxpayers more than $100,000 in salaries to the men and Inspections Department overtime generated by their absence. Still, he got plenty of face time after calling the three Buffalo television stations and the two daily papers here, alerting them to the raid.
Bax, a career public servant with an outstanding 32-year record with the city, has been a target of Dyster's at least since October of 2008, though the mayor, lacking in the guts department, enlisted flunkies like Roger Spurback and Planning Director Tom DeSantis to do his dirty work for him.
DeSantis leaned on Bax in repeated attempts to get him to illegally close the One Niagara Building, run by Glynn competitor Frank Parlato, while Spurback, who doesn't even live in the city, was given the task of criticizing Bax in public.
They were joined by local hotelier Galeb Rizek, proprietor of a cut-rate flophouse out on Niagara Falls Boulevard, who had his own run-in with the feds back in 2004.
The move to reinstate Bax and the others will most certainly be passed, and Dyster will be left, as usual, with egg on his face.