The two weeks of public hearings staged against elected housing commissioner Joe Mascia — behind closed doors with cameras banned — were recorded only by transcript and not available to the public until this week. They tell a tale of political intrigue, municipal corruption, and personal betrayal that would be expected of Hollywood movies or an HBO original series.
The stunning political takedown of Mascia is ripe for a screenplay — perhaps even more riveting than The Wire (HBO) or House of Cards (Netflix) and, at moments, more comedic than Parks and Recreation (NBC Universal).
Here are snapshots from the first three of seven volumes of transcripts:
Transcript (Volume 1 of 7); 12/18/2016.
- 14 Hearing Officer Evanko “It is Mr. Cohen’s interpretation that all the statute requires is a reading of the charges and an opportunity for Mr. Mascia to present evidence to refute those charges and that it precludes testimony or other evidence being presented in support of those charge.”
- 18 Attorney Steve Cohen “I want to preserve our objection to the Mayor’s authority to remove Commissioner Mascia. We object to the suspension and removal of Commissioner Mascia by the Mayor on the grounds that he lacks the authority to remove an elected commissioner.”
- 30 Attorney Steve Cohen “Yes, Your Honor. I’m aware of that but the rules of evidence in the U.S. going back some 75 years with respect to electronic recordings are crystal clear. Federal Rule 106 makes reference to the fact that when a recording is only presented in part, that it may not be admitted into evidence if the defense demands that the whole recording be presented.”
- 34 Attorney Steve Cohen “Your Honor, you asked for some of the foundational questions but the foundational questions ignore the greater context, which Rule 106 and Rule 901, and a whole lot of case law says the respondent is abvolutely entitled to in order to explain the portions that they do seek admitted…”
- 36 Hearing Officer Evanko “Mr. Cohen, I’ve already ruled in your favor on the leading questions. I’ve sustained your objections. I do believe that the recording is something that Mr. Mascia has already admitted that he has made remarks and they have been recorded. Can we hear the recording?
- 36 Attorney Steve Cohen “I would say no, your Honor, not unless the entire context can be played. It is our position that there was a manipulation of Mr. Mascia by Paul Christopher for political reasons.”
- 51 Attorney Steve Cohen “And it is our position that the decision made by the Mayor was done so in the presence of bad evidence and for the very reasons that we’ve discussed on the record.”
Transcript (Volume 2 of 7); 12/21/2016.
- 193 Attorney Steve Cohen “Over my intense objection, which are a part of the record, Ms. Strom insisted on putting the recording into evidence. I have every right to inquire into each and every component of that recording and even though she only put in snippets, and I wish that the whole four hours were in there, I am entitled to question him on what is in evidence already.”
- 197 Hearing Officer Evanko “Again, Ms. Strom, this is on the tape. He does have the right to ask his client about what that reference meant. So I’m going to allow it but, again, caution Mr. Cohen on a limited line of questioning with respect to this.”
P.202 Hearing Officer Evanko “Are you taking pictures? (member of the public – Yes). You are not permitted to take pictures (member of the public – Isn’t this a public hearing?). It is a public hearing but you are not permitted to take pictures. You were not here when I gave directions. You must give me your phone so I may delete the photos. There is no photographing on your iPad either. Will you please approach the bench (member of the public – I thought it was a public hearing). A public hearing that’s in a courtroom and there is no photographs allowed. (member of the public – But don’t you have an obligation to make sure that the public has the – . . . I think it’s clear that you’re not impartial in this matter.)”
- 207 Attorney Steve Cohen “Mr. Mascia, why did you contact the Office of Special Counsel?”
Mr. Mascia “It was the next step that I had to take with regard to an investigation into the Housing Authority. The local HUD office seemed disinterested. I sent letters and emails to the local HUD. I also involved the Inspector General’s Office, which did do an investigation, and the next step up was the Office of Special Counsel in Washington, D.C.”
- 225 Hearing Officer Evanko “I’m going to sustain the objection. You may move on.”
- 225 Attorney Steve Cohen “I just want a ruling on this. Is it going to be Your Honor’s position that the only motives that you’re going to entertain for the use of that word was racism? We can’t present political speech?”
Transcript (Volume 3 of 7); 12/22/2016.
P.283. Attorney Moore “ All right, tell me this, prior to the suspension was Mr. Mascia a member of one or more of the committees that we spoke about earlier?”
- 283. Ms. Sanders-Garrett “Yes and he ofter filled in sometimes on the Finance and Operations when a member could not be present.”
- 300 Attorney Steve Cohen “Ma’am, I’m handing you what is marked Mayor’s Exhibit 9 for identification. Do you see any indication that a carbon copy was served upon you? (Dawn Sanders Garrett: No). Mr. Cohen “you testified under direct examination by Mr. Moore that it is your policy to receive documents and stamp them, and that is how Mr. Moore was seeking to get this in through you. Now, you’re saying that it was the Chairman that opened it and he happened to show it to you. Which is it?
P.315 Attorney Steve Cohen “Have you ever learned in your capacity as with the BMHA that Commissioner Mascia was critical of the Mayor’s appointments as BMHA commissioner’s” (Dawn Sanders Garrett: Yes.).
- 318 Attorney Steve Cohen “The relevance is that the utterances by Commissioner Mascia are in the context of a much larger string of criticisms by the Commissioner for political purposes, for protected speech, for First Amendment speech, and as it’s been testified to by Commissioner Mascia already on direct, it was his intention to convey the fact that certain people are crooks, to use his word. I have the right to flesh that out. That came out on Mr. Moore’s , excuse me, Ms. Strom’s direct.”
P.328 Attorney Steve Cohen “All right. And si it’s clear, you (Hearing Officer Evanko) won’t permit argument even. Now you’re going to be making rulings on evidentiary objections but only the City is permitted..
Hearing Officer Evanko “No, Mr. Cohen, not at all. I’m asking — I sustained the objection.”
Attorney Steve Cohen “Without argument from me. I just want that to be crystal clear.”
P.348 Attorney Steve Cohen (Question to Ms. Sanders-Garrett). Is it fair to say, ma’am, that you use the BMHA vehicle that’s been assigned to you for personal use?
- 348 Ms. Sanders-Garrettt “(objection sustained).
- 348 Attorney Steve Cohen “and during the course of cross-examination it is my position that I am absolutely entitled to raise these issues to show, Your Honor, the inherent interest and bias on the part of the witness.”