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Time to clean house at BMHA Good moves by mayor to fix board, which needs to institute real reforms

The litany of questionable "perks" and abuse of privileges that trails a trio of BMHA commissioners, one of them the former chairman and two of them tenant-elected, should provoke outrage: They let down their neighbors.

They ran up costs diverting dollars that should have gone to improve life in the city's 27 housing projects, which offer shelter to those who need the financial help of subsidized housing. Instead of helping the poor, they helped themselves.

One tenant-elected Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority commissioner kept her larger apartment by keeping her adult children on the lease after they moved. Two commissioners accepted auto allowances of $900 a year, even though they don't own cars. Expense account receipts are scarce. For the amount of training and conference trips taken by the trio, as listed in Sunday's edition by News reporters Deidre Williams and James Heaney, Buffalo should have had the best-run authority in the country; instead it has a critical federal audit.

There is a bright side. Mayor Byron W. Brown is taking action. Brown acted on his appointee John V. Elmore's recommendations to name commissioners with professional backgrounds. The BMHA board now will gain two bankers, an attorney who leads the Minority Bar Association and Hispanic Women's League, and a Buffalo State College vice president.

In a gamble, Brown decided to let the two tenant-elected commissioners serve at least until this summer's elections. Former chairman Sherrill Colston properly resigned. Brown also added his political weight to a reform push calling for revocation of the authority cell phones and credit cards commissioners used to run up thousands of dollars in personal use charges, even as they cut costs and eliminated the housing police. With these new appointees, reforms stand a chance. For the sake of the tenants and federal aid, clean this house.

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