Mascia Fights City Hall Over Suspension

by / Sep. 9, 2015 1pm EST

Embattled Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority Commissioner Joe Mascia has followed through on his pledge to officially challenge his suspension from the agency’s board.

Mascia was served notice that he was suspended from his duties as an elected tenant commissioner last month in response to a secretly recorded racist rant in which he uses the N-word to describe Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown, BMHA Executive Director Dawn Sanders-Garrett and other African American leaders in the area.

He submitted a five-page letter Tuesday to Ann Evanko, an attorney at Hurwitz & Fine, P.C., who has been selected as the officer in an upcoming hearing called by Brown that will determine whether Mascia’s use of racial epithets constitutes a violation of the authority’s personnel policy and code of ethics. Mascia may be permanently removed from his elected position, depending on the outcome of the hearing.

Mascia believes the effort to remove him from a duly elected position is illegal and argues as much in the letter.

“Notwithstanding opinion to the contrary, I believe that Mayor Byron W. Brown has exceeded and/or abused his legitimate authority under color of New York State Public Housing Law Section 34 in this matter,” Mascia said in the letter.

Brown has control over the entire process, with his appointees comprising the ethics committee, five of the seven board members, all of the authority’s top administrators and Evanko, effectively denying Mascia due process, he argues.

“Mayor Brown has set himself up as judge, jury and executioner,” Mascia told City & State in a phone interview Tuesday.

Mascia, who has also continued his run for the Buffalo Common Council’s Fillmore district seat despite the controversy over the recording, goes on in the letter to describe in great detail the background of the recording.

He also requests that Evanko provide information regarding her firm’s payment for the work she will be doing on the hearing and about business and personal relationships between her, the firm, the City of Buffalo, the housing authority and any administrator or employee of any of those entities.

One of two elected resident commissioners on the board, Masica has often bumped heads with Brown-appointed commissioners and administrators since first taking his seat in 2006. BMHA General Counsel David Rodriguez has initiated litigation several times in an attempt to suspend or remove Mascia, without success. 

Sanders-Garrett said she had not seen the letter, but that the agency is satisfied with allowing the hearing officer to carry out her work.

“All we are doing is waiting to see the process take place,” she said. “Whatever the process is, we’ll allow that to take place and whatever decision is rendered we will abide accordingly.”

Evanko and Brown did not immediately respond to calls seeking comment.

The full letter is posted below. 


Mascia Challenge

This article appears courtesy of a content-sharing agreement with City & State.