Mascia blasts BMHA Chairman for behavior at Feb meeting

Housing Commissioner Joe Masica has been targeted for political retribution by the Board members of the Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority ever since he began asking questions about a suspect asbestos removal contract last February.

In February of 2014, Masica began asking questions about an out-of-control asbestos removal contract at the former Kensington Heights housing complex. That contract had ballooned wildly and inexplicably, and the Board refused to give answers.

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Kensington Heights Housing Project hired Eric Mower & Associates to manage a public relations campaign relating to the complex’s needed asbestos removal. The Authority has been planning to demolish the complex for years, but progress at the complex has been moving slow — raising the eyebrows of investigators.

The contract had been initially awarded at $5 million to a firm controlled by respected local businessman Hormoz Mansouri. Under suspect circumstances, the contract was then terminated and awarded to another firm, controlled by Jim Jerge. The value of the contract ballooned to $13 million. The work still has not been completed, and the BMHA Board still refuses to offer explanations.

Mascia says that Adam Perry, an attorney doing work for BMHA, began to target him after he began demanding a proper accounting of the Authority’s spending and contracting process. Perry is a high profile attorney. He and his law firm, Hodgson Russ, have enjoyed lucrative government contracts over many years.

Adam Perry is a partner at Hodgson Russ, and leads the firm's employment law practice. His extensive network of political contacts has put an enviable level of governmental work on his plate.
Adam Perry is a partner at Hodgson Russ, and leads the firm’s employment law practice. His extensive network of political contacts has put an enviable level of governmental work on his plate.
WGRZ’s investigative reporter Jeff Preval reports that BMHA has been allocating hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal contracts without first securing the formal approvals of Board, which has invited a federal investigation. HUD even refused payments to seven law firms from 2010-14 because the documentation supporting the contracting could not be provided.
Even more egregious than mismanagement and sloppy record keeping, Mascia alleges that BMHA does not even perform competitive bidding processes as required by law.
At last February’s BMHA Board meeting, the Board publicly berated Mascia — in blatant violation of federal whistleblower protections. In a letter to the Chairman, Mascia writes:

Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority

Attn: Chairman Michael Seaman

300 Perry St.

Buffalo, N.Y. 14204

February 25, 2015

 

Chairman Seaman,

Your behavior at the Thursday February 19, 2015 Board of Commissioner meeting was disgraceful and disrespectful to the two Elected Resident Commissioners.

Your actions displayed in front of the news media and the general public in an open committee meeting shows your arrogance and disrespect for all the members of the Board and the title of your position as Chairman of the Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority. Roberts Rules of Order, rules of the Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority and Public Authorities in general law forbids admonishment, intimidation or censorship by any of its members. Roberts Rules and Cushing Rules clearly state that if a Chair wishes to make a statement or debate you must relinquish the chair which, in this case, you did not do. The Chairman’s major responsibility is to conduct a meeting in a fair and an impartial manner, keep order and make sure every member respects each other which, again, in this case you did not do.

To admonish and insinuate that Commissioner Martinez and I as residents should have to ask your permission to speak on housing authority matters that are of concern to the residents would appear to our residents to lack transparency on the part of their elected commissioners. We have never spoken publicly on the behalf of the BMHA but we have and will continue to speak about the BMHA in an effort to correct their wrongs and to improve the living conditions of all the residents of public housing because that is what we were elected to do and what we must do. Your actions as Chairman of the Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority violates our First Amendment Right of Free Speech guaranteed under the Constitution of the United States of America as residents of housing and citizens.

You have abused your authority as Chairman and then had the audacity to boast about it to the general public outside of the Authority in an egregious display of absolute arrogance.

This is not the first time you have displayed this arrogance against me and other Elected Commissioners. I am speaking with counsel to research this matter and may bring further action against you and any commissioners collaborating with you to censor the voices of the residents.

I would hope that you would consider the good and welfare of Public Housing and spare further embarrassment to your fellow commissioners by submitting your resignation.

Respectfully,

Commissioner Joseph A. Mascia

Commissioner Yvonne Martinez

This is the second in a series of articles that will investigate the longstanding financial mismanagement and procurement practices of the Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority.
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