Sweeping layoffs at the badly mismanaged Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority is leaving residents aghast. Dozens of key staffers are being dismissed in the face of a bleak fiscal outlook that stems from poor performance in federal funding formulas.
The agency is controlled by the five appointed commissioners to the authority, who are hand selected by the Mayor and close personal confidants: city finance executive Mike Seaman; former deputy Mayor Donna Brown; Buffalo State administrator Hal Payne, businessman and pastor Al Core; and supporter Stanley Fernandez.
Earlier this year, the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development designated the agency as “substandard,” discredited the authority’s management, and raised concerns over its precarious financial situation — steaming mainly from nearly $10 million in cost overruns associated with the demolition of the Kensington Heights property.
Despite the round of unprecedented cost cutting measures at an agency that has never been properly managed or funded, Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes’ husband, George Stokes, continues to be employed at the authority as a “Crime Coordinator,” a position with unclear job functions.
The Assemblywoman’s goddaughter, Dawn Sanders-Garret, is the agency’s Executive Director but has come under scrutiny in recent months. Her contract expired in June and has not yet been extended. Sanders-Garret is known as a “hands off manager” who leaves operating responsibilities to her deputy. She is widely expected to be “phased out” of her position.
She and her deputy, Modesto Candelario, earn upwards of $125,000 annually. Candelario lacks a college degree and does not meet the job requirements posted for the position. Both Sanders-Garret and Candelario regularly contribute to the reelection fund of Brown.
Candelario’s wife, Lucy, is the director of the Belle Center — a non-profit controlled by BMHA officials — and was hired under suspect circumstances that seem to violate standing BMHA ethics policies.