Mayor Byron Brown’s five appointments to the Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority’s board of commissioners were made illegally, alleges the tenant elected Housing Commissioner Joe Mascia. In accordance with the articles of incorporation that govern the authority, Commissioners are to have staggered terms, to ensure that the board retains institutional memory overtime.
But when Mayor Brown made his appointments to the board last October, he attempted to appoint five commissioners each to full five-year terms — an illegal move that should invalidate those appointments, argues Mascia in a lawsuit filed in State Supreme Court.
Justice John F. O’Donnell — a well connected figure in state politics for decades — is claiming that the improper appointments were simply “clerical errors” on each commissioners’ certificate of appointment, which misstated each term of service through 2019.
“The Common Council didn’t understand what they were voting on. You appoint commissioners to the board when their specific terms expire — not all five at once,” says Mascia. “This is an example of how aloof and out of touch the Common Council has been on housing issues.”
Many political observers expect that the suspect appointments were a result of either corruption or incompetence — but they are unsure which.
Now — despite having issued a memorandum of law over a month ago, signaling that the Justice would rule in favor of upholding the illegal appointments — O’Donnell seems to be dragging his feet and has not issued his formal decision. Some speculate that political considerations are influencing his judgment.
Community activist Terry Robinson wonders whether the Justice is “playing defense” for the mayor.
O’Donnell is the husband of Denise O’Donnell, the former state director of criminal justice services in the Patterson administration — whose election time allegations helped Andrew Cuomo push Patterson aside in 2010. He is the father of Jack O’Donnell, a prominent lobbyist with Bolton St. Johns, an Albany based firm that is thought to be close to the governor.
The Commissioner’s lawsuit can be read in full here: