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Housing board revokes privileges Cancels cell phones, credit cards for members

Newly appointed commissioners of the Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority took care of business quickly Friday at their first board meeting, revoking cell phone, credit card and travel privileges.

An earlier investigation of the authority showed some commissioners ran up cell phone bills of more than $12,000 the last two years, took 40 out-of-town business trips in the last three years and often used authority-issued credit cards for personal purchases.

In an overhaul of the authority, Mayor Byron W. Brown appointed four new members last month to the seven-member board.

The resolution initially included laptop computers in addition to the cell phones, credit cards and travel. But Commissioner Charles J. Flynn asked for an amendment excluding laptops, especially for tenant-elected commissioners Mary Rogers and Aqiel Qadir.

"The two tenant commissioners may not have the resources to communicate with others in the complex or other professionals," Flynn argued. "I think it's a step backwards taking computers away from them and putting them in a storeroom."

Initially, the Flynn amendment failed, as did the resolution removing board privileges, coming up short of the four votes required to pass.

Toward the end of the meeting, however, Hal D. Payne, one of the new commissioners, asked the board to reconsider Flynn's amendment, excluding laptop computers.

With that, the board approved eliminating cell phone, credit card and travel privileges, but commissioners who have authority-issued laptops may retain them.

Also during the meeting, the board took steps to end a scholarship fund set up under the former executive director and the former board. No one contributed to the fund, and it was never established because the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development said it could not be done legally, explained Gillian Brown, the authority's interim executive director.

Michael A. Seaman, one of the mayor's new appointees, was elected board chairman.

"We'll get better," Seaman said in assessing the board's performance after the meeting. "Meetings will improve, and they will move much quicker, but today, at least, we addressed some key issues."

In addition to Payne and Seaman, the mayor had named Betty Calvo-Torres and Ronald Brown to the board, joining Flynn, Rogers and Qadir.

e-mail: dswilliams@buffnews.com

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