It was Commissioner Hal Payne who introduced the resolution approving a turnaround plan that the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development has demanded within 90 days of March 13, or risk a federal takeover of the agency. Federal officials have faulted BMHA for “substandard management.”
The plan was brought to the board by the three member operations committee, denying the board’s two elected Commissioners an opportunity to review the plan prior to the meeting.
Mismanagement at the agency has been staggering. Largely funded by the federal government, it has been used to fund a patronage machine backing Mayor Byron Brown and Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes. The Assemblywoman’s goddaughter serves as Executive Director. Her husband also works at the agency.
The Mayor controls five of the seven seats on the board, and many members of Grassroots, the east side political club that backs both Brown and Peoples-Stokes, have benefited wildly.
A copy of the turnaround plan was not made available to The Chronicle, but was presented to the seven Commissioners in print form. Mascia and Yvonne Martinez voted against the plan, not having an opportunity to review it.
Payne went to great lengths to explain that the plan had been reviewed thoroughly, and that it had the confidence of the three member subcommittee that he chairs. Payne is an administrator at Buffalo State College and among the Mayor’s closest personal friends.
Payne’s turnaround plan does not include management changes. Dawn Sanders-Garrett, the Executive Director, has come under scrutiny. Critics say that her tenure has been a difficult one, and the organization’s longstanding problems have shown little improvement.
The Mayor’s appointees to the board saw no impropriety in denying the full board an opportunity to read, review, and comment on the BMHA’s emergency turnaround plan. Mascia and others argue that tenants should have had input and developed the plan in a participatory fashion with longtime residents.
HUD’s Buffalo field office will has wide discretion –able to approve or reject the plan, implement its own turnaround plan, or even force the agency into federal receivership. Those officials have been largely complicit in BMHA’s dysfunction, and are expected to approve the plan without conditions — much to the detriment of all residents of the City of Buffalo.