The mismanagement of the Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority is staggering, but it comes as no surprise to tenants and neighbors — who have had to live with the horrid quality of life impacts that the authority’s dysfunction creates.
Fixing the problems shouldn’t be difficult from a governance perspective. Mayor Byron Brown appoints five of seven board seats, giving him firm control over the authority. Residents only elect two commissioners to the board.
That governance model — which intended to give the Mayor firm control over the entity so that it would be easier to manage, has been abused with unabashed patronage and graft, says Commissioner Joe Mascia, one of the two resident elected board members.
As the authority continues to unravel, it will be difficult for the Mayor to claim that he didn’t know about the use of public resources for political purposes, the authority’s suspect contracting practices, misuse of funds, and the incompetence of senior managers. He has appointed his closest friends to the board.
Michael Seaman is the chairman of BMHA’s board of commissioners. He is also the Brown Administration’s Finance Director. He meets with the Mayor “almost daily.” His checkered past will be the subject of a forthcoming article.
Hal Payne is an administrator at Buffalo State College and studied there with Byron when they both were young. One source describes them as “closer than brothers.”
Donna Brown is the former Deputy Mayor.
Stanley Fernandez is the retired director of BMHA resident services and a personal friend of Modesto Candelario, the Deputy Executive Director. “He lied that he didn’t have a relative working at BMHA when interviewed by the Common Council for perspective Mayoral appointment to the board,” alleges Mascia.
Alan Core is a pastor related to Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes. The Assemblywoman also has her husband at BMHA as the Crime Coordinator. “Even the IG doesn’t know what he does when he investigated,” says Mascia. “I asked his relationship to Crystal and he wouldn’t answer.”
Ron Brown, a former commissioner, “was removed from the board after expressing concerns over a HUD consultant’s report,” says Mascia.
The appointments that the Mayor has made are not professionals with a career’s worth of experience pertaining to housing, property management, development, finance, or planning. They are politically connected and were chosen based on their closeness to Mayor.
When federal investigators roll into town and impose a federal receivership of the authority, it will be impossible to the Mayor to claim that he didn’t know what was happening inside the agency.
“The Mayor personally interviews all new hires at the authority,” says Mascia.
Mascia has been the target of political retribution by operatives affiliated with Mayor Brown.