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Demetreus Nix Fights Political Corruption in Western New York
Did Niagara Falls, NY Mayor Robert Restaino Improperly Target Political Rival Demetreus Nix?
NOTE: In Luthmann’s War, Richard Luthmann seeks truth while exposing oathbreakers, institutional injustice, and corruption through free expression. He also searches for the good. The following draws from reporting in the Frank Report and the Niagara Reporter. Every story has a hero. In this case, it is Demetreus Nix, a man who made the best out of his second chance in life and is now a rising star in Western New York State politics.
Demetreus Nix, a man with a checkered past, turned his life around. He started a construction business, became a community leader, and is now a Niagara Falls, New York, Mayoral Candidate.
But for the past several months, Nix has repeatedly found himself in hot water thanks to what he believes is a political vendetta against him.
Nix leads the “We All We Got” (WAWG) movement in Western New York, focused on combatting crime, poverty, and injustice. He has personally raised political awareness in his community and registered hundreds of new voters locally.
The Mayoral hopeful says he continues to be targeted because of his political activity and a dispute with Niagara Falls Mayor Robert Restaino.
It Started With a Juneteenth Snub
The conflict between Nix and Restaino stems from Nix’s attempt to hold a Juneteenth Festival event in 2022 on a rarely-traveled city street. Despite a favored group being allowed to hold an event on the steps of Niagara Falls City Hall, Nix was denied the same opportunity on his road, on which he had the only house.
The Department of Code Enforcement failed to issue Nix a permit, in a move he believes was purely political.
Nix went ahead with the event anyway, which was attended by more people than the City Hall event and with a different crowd. Mayor Restaino showed up at Nix’s home after the City Hall event, but the reception was far from warm.
When Restaino took the microphone to address the crowd, Nix took it from him and wouldn’t let him finish. Nix was still miffed City Hall didn’t issue him a permit, a decision he believes came directly from the mayor.
Nix claims that Restaino has been out to get him ever since. He accused the Niagara Falls Division of Code Enforcement of targeting him under the direction of Restaino, the mayor’s involvement in a recent felony indictment for burglary, and Restaino’s hand in the 20-officer DEC raid of an industrial property he owns.
Department of Code Enforcement Drama
Nix claims Restaino has his “own man” in the Department of Code Enforcement (DCE) whose job is to make his life miserable. The mayor’s man’s man, Nix claims, is Code Enforcement Officer Joe Chick.
The most recent incident involves Chick allegedly revoking Nix’s construction permit. Nix said Chick falsely informed his client that they needed to file for a permit and hire another contractor. This occurred the same day Nix was burying his three-year-old daughter, adding to the family’s distress.
Nix, who operates local business Nix Construction and Property Management, claims Chick repeatedly harassed him over work permits. He says Chick previously placed a Stop Work order on Nix’s community center, school, and event center and accused Nix of using his own garbage cans rather than the city-provided cans.
“The sum of Mr. Nix’s complaint, involving a single customer who owns a property in the City, related to just one meeting between Mr. Chick and that customer, which Mr. Nix was not present. So, his complaint was not based on firsthand information,” former DCE Director Corey Baskerville said. Baskerville resigned from the post in April.
Baskerville said he contacted Nix’s customer, who provided no information to support Nix’s complaint and praised Chick’s professionalism.
The Niagara Falls Reporter contacted the customer, who gave no comment and “did not want to get involved in politics.”
Nix believes DCE and Chick’s actions are part of a corrupt scheme to destroy his livelihood, all orchestrated by Restaino.
Pierce Avenue Indictment
In March, Nix found himself in even deeper trouble when he was arrested by the Niagara Falls police and indicted in connection with a break-in on Pierce Avenue. He was accused of second-degree burglary, second-degree criminal mischief, and fourth-degree grand larceny.
The Niagara County District Attorney’s Office alleges that he stole $1,500 of construction equipment and caused $30,000 in damages.
Nix says he was retrieving tools from the Pierce Avenue property, where he was doing contracting work. Nix claims the property owner, Rod Davis, is a deadbeat with ties to Mayor Restaino. Sources say Davis testified before the Niagara County grand jury that issued Nix’s indictment.
Nix claims the charges are politically motivated and have no legal basis. Text messages between Nix and Davis reveal a business dispute, with Davis engaging in delay tactics and stopping payment on checks after they were mailed.
On December 30, 2022, Davis confirmed he had “dropped [Nix’s] check in the mailbox yesterday morning.”
But that check never came. A week later, Davis claimed he would put a “stop payment” on the missing check and deliver the money to Nix in person on January 10.
Davis never showed. The following text exchange ensued:
Davis told Nix he was “letting chief of police and the mayor handle this now.”
“I’ve never seen justice move this fast. [Davis] called the cops and the mayor on me. Two days later, their ‘full investigation’ was completed, and I was arrested,” Nix said.
“They want me to cop out to burglary in the third and take probation so I can’t run for mayor.”
Nix’s case is still pending in criminal court.
New York State DEC Raid
In late May, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, supported by the Niagara Falls police, fire, and code enforcement departments, sent a veritable “posse” of over twenty officers to an industrial property owned by Nix. The basis for the response was two environmental hazard complaints.
Nix called the raid a “hit job” orchestrated by Restiano. Nix Contracting and Management acquired the former city Department of Public Works yard last year and uses the property to store dumpsters, equipment, and leftover materials from construction jobs.
Nix said he arrived at the location at around 9 a.m. on the Friday before Memorial Day to find a cacophony of officers already on-site. Videos taken by Nix show police officers and other government representatives looking around the property’s interior, including inside an unlocked garage. The officers had no warrant.
Nix told the officers and others to vacate the premises. They said to him that they planned to return with a search warrant. Nix never received any formal violation notices from city officials.
He described the scene as “crazy as hell.” Nix said the “mob” of city agents was “an intimidation tactic to scare me and make me look bad.”
“There’s no search warrant. There’s no nothing,” he added. “They opened all my garage doors with no warrant, no nothing.”
City Administrator Anthony Restaino, the mayor’s brother, confirmed that Hizzoners’ office contacted the DEC after receiving complaints about potential environmental hazards involving construction debris— one of the complaints referred to the potential for asbestos to be among the rubble.
Anthony Restaino denied the assertion that his brother’s mayor’s office contacting the DEC to investigate the complaints had anything to do with politics. He said it was a state investigation into a “potential health concern.”
Nix says he was a political target.
“This is what happens in the life we have here,” Nix said. “We’re scared to do anything because people are scared that they will come after them... I’m trying to take that fear out of us. I’m saying if we stand together, they can’t break us. I’m not going to stop. This has made me go any harder.”
Nix received a letter from the DEC in July stating that there were no pending violations and no penalties or fines were being assessed. The DEC even offered assistance to help Nix develop the property into a transfer station.
Is Restaino ‘Targeting’ Nix?
Nix believes he has been targeted from day one and that he and his WAWG movement threaten the establishment, particularly in the upcoming mayoral election. WAWG has its own ballot line at the November 7 general election.
The political newcomer also managed to jump several hurdles in the Democratic Primary, including a challenge to his ballot access petition signatures. The local Board of Elections, staffed by Restaino loyalists, said Nix submitted 799 signatures, but only 458 were valid. The mayoral candidate needed 500 to qualify, leaving him 42 short.
Not willing to lay down, in May, he took the fight to court, and Supreme Court Justice Edward A. Pace restored Nix to the primary ballot.
The signatures the board of elections invalidated were because they weren’t signed in cursive and were printed instead. This archaic law with racist undertones is aimed at disqualifying voters who never learned how to write in cursive.
“We had four or five different issues that were voter disenfranchising. It was all the mayor. Once we got past the mayor and we got to the court, we had no problem.” When asked about the requirement for cursive signatures, Nix said, “Man, we’ve been going through this forever. How many bubbles is in a bar of soap was a voter question fifty years ago!”
When asked about his experience running for mayor of Niagara Falls, Nix said, “Man, it’s like being in an Avengers movie. Every time there’s a new bad guy that the main bad guy is sending to do his dirty work. We have to keep fighting off these bad guys to get to the main one, and that’s Mayor Restaino. He’s Thanos.”
Nix continued, “It’s not any different than the mayor calling the cops and getting me arrested with a crime so that he can put something against me… but I’m not going to stop. The mayor will have no more fights after this. You already put me in jail. Everyone knows about that. You already challenged me, and I won.”
Or so he thought. Nix later said he does not think it’s a coincidence that DEC officers and inspectors arrived at his industrial property weeks later, roughly 30 days from the June 27 Democratic primary election.
Is Nix Really a ‘Threat’ to Restaino’s Voting Bloc?
Nix believes that Restaino fears him and his WAWG movement because they are pulling away the black and minority vote that traditionally came out for Restaino on the Democratic Party line.
The community activist and mayoral hopeful lost the Democratic Party primary but made an impressive showing for a first-time candidate, garnering 20 percent of the vote. Restaino won the race, failing to capture a majority with only 45 percent of the primary day take. Former City Councilman Glenn Choolokian took in the other 35 percent.
Nix says he is showing the political vulnerability of all his general election challengers.
“I’m a threat to the Democrats because I’m taking votes from the mayor where he needs them. And I’m a threat to the Republicans because of who they are running,” Nix said.
And Nix is right. Black turnout for Restaino was down noticeably in this year’s primary compared to four years ago. Many believe Nix was the X-factor.
Restiano will face Republican Carl Cain in the November 7 general election. Cain was the Niagara Falls deputy police chief from 2013-19 and served in the New York State Air National Guard (1985-04) and the New York State Army National Guard (2004-12).
Nix remains a dynamic force with the ability to draw votes the two major party candidates would garner were he not on the general election ballot.
Is Restaino Exposed?
Nix says Restaino is using his public office for improper and illegal purposes. He points to how his indictment impacted his mayoral campaign.
“The Working Families Party held back their endorsement and ballot line in the general election, which would have given us two ballot lines,” Nix said.
He also believes all the activity, including the indictment and the DEC raid, is linked to Restaino’s plot to get Nix to end his candidacy.
A section of the Niagara Falls City Charter could bar elected city officials from holding office if convicted of a crime involving “moral turpitude.” If Nix were to plead guilty to a crime, he may be legally removed from the ballot.
"The DEC raid was a fishing expedition. They were hoping they could find something to nail me on to get me off the ballot. They can't believe that we do everything by the book, and it eats them up," Nix said.
But Nix believes Restaino and his allies may be at even greater risk.
“I am calling upon Trini Ross, Letitia James, and the other powerful prosecutors to investigate Robert Restaino and his accomplices for conspiracy and public corruption. This pattern of behavior is unmistakable and unmistakably racist,” Nix said.
And Nix may have a point. If a public official schemes to use their office for personal benefit, they may be exposed to criminal liability under Section 496 of the New York State Penal Law. Several federal laws also target public corruption.
Nix believes this election will raise significant issues for low-income voters and the Niagara Falls black vote. He further believes Restaino wishes to downplay these issues to continue spending city money on his pet projects.
“It’s easy for the mayor to pass our money because we don’t have a voice, so I’m running to be the voice for those who have never had one.”
Stay tuned for continuing coverage.
Richard Luthmann is a writer, commentator, satirist, and investigative journalist with degrees from Columbia University and the University of Miami. A transplanted New Yorker, Luthmann is a member of the National Writers Union now living in Southwest Florida.
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