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BMHA demands Mascia’s resignation; commissioner loses Conservative line on ballot

Thursday was a tough day for Joseph A. Mascia.

A day after Mascia acknowledged making racist comments about some of Buffalo’s African-American leaders, the Housing Authority commissioner and Common Council candidate was stripped of the Conservative line in the upcoming Council race.

Also, the Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority demanded that Mascia resign his BMHA seat. He refused.

Losing the Conservative line doesn’t appear related to the controversy swirling around Mascia. Though he needed only eight signatures to qualify for the minor party line, the election board determined the witness to his designating petitions did not submit the proper information, according to Republican Elections Commissioner Ralph M. Mohr.

Mascia on Thursday evening acknowledged the error. The wrong first name of the petition witness was printed on the petition, Mascia said.

The BMHA resolution demanding that Mascia resign, on the other hand, was directly related to racist comments Mascia made that, unbeknownst to him, were recorded, then leaked to the media.

While Mascia refused to resign from the BMHA post, he could, nonetheless, still be forced off the board.

Under board rules, the issue surrounding Mascia could now be forwarded to the BMHA’s Ethics Committee, which would have 20 days to determine if his actions violated authority policies.

If the committee believes Mascia’s actions warrant his being removed from the board, Mayor Byron W. Brown could be asked to appoint a hearing officer to conduct a review, and make a determination on whether Mascia can retain his post.

BMHA officials were not immediately available Thursday to discuss whether they will continue to seek Mascia’s removal.

Mascia, since 2006, has been an elected tenant representative on the BMHA’s board of commissioners, and has been an outspoken advocate for better public housing in Buffalo.

Mascia said there’s nothing he can do about losing the Conservative line.

“It was a technical error,” he said. “I can’t fight it.”

He remains a candidate for the Fillmore District Council seat on the Democratic primary ballot. Mascia hopes to unseat incumbent David A. Franczyk.

But Mascia, 70, vowed to fight any attempts to remove him from the BMHA board. The only way he’ll resign, he said, is if BMHA tenants want him to leave. But that’s not the case, Mascia said. In fact, he said, tenants have urged him to stay on and fight.

“I’m not going away,” he said. “I made a mistake. I owned it. I apologized. I feel terrible about it. I am not a bad man.

“The people want me to represent them,” he continued. “They are standing behind me.”

Mascia noted that he got calls Wednesday night and Thursday morning from tenants asking him to help them with paint chipping from the walls. “They said, ‘Joe, we have a problem. You are the only one there who responds to us,’ ” he said.

“What am I supposed to do? Am I supposed to let those people down because the administration doesn’t want me or feels that I’m a threat?” he asked.

The News reported on Thursday that it obtained a copy of tape recordings featuring conversations in which Mascia repeatedly used the N-word in references to Mayor Byron W. Brown, Council President Darius G. Pridgen and other African-American officials, including Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes and Dawn Sanders-Garrett, the BMHA executive director.

“Once they’re in power, forget about it, forget it,” he is quoted on the tape. “They want it all.”

Mascia’s remarks were recorded by Paul Christopher, who runs a local janitorial company for which Mascia has worked in the past.

Christopher told The News that he recorded the conversation last February or March because he has known Mascia for decades, had grown tired of his racial views and thought the public should be aware of them.

Business went on as usual during the BMHA board meeting’s first hour on Thursday. Mascia, who arrived roughly 20 minutes late, inquired about motions and asked for a copy of a list of people interested in an employment program.

But the atmosphere turned sour when Sanders-Garrett read a letter from the Community Action Organization of Erie County, an anti-poverty agency, about Mascia’s taped comments.

“To find him to be so blatantly and consciously racist nearly emptied me. ... To find that such a person actually seeks to become the Fillmore District Council person and continues to sit on the BMHA board of commissioners strains one’s ability to believe,” said the letter from L. Nathan Hare, CAO president and chief executive officer.

Members of the BMHA board went into executive session to discuss the tape of Mascia’s comments. Mascia and all others at the meeting were asked to leave the room for the conversation. The meeting then reconvened, and Mascia was asked to resign.

Brown on Wednesday night called on Mascia to resign from the BMHA. Thursday afternoon, the mayor held a news conference in which he said Mascia “is not fit for public office.” BMHA residents, Brown said, “should ask for his resignation, as well.”

Peoples-Stokes on Thursday called on Mascia to “do the right thing and step aside.”

“Let our community heal, as opposed to dealing with the negativity,” she said. “We don’t need it. We are on a good road. This is an unnecessary setback. If he cares about Buffalo and its progress, he will step aside.”

This is not the first time the BMHA has tried to oust Mascia. The authority tried to remove him from the ballot in last year’s election for tenant representatives, claiming he had vacated his seat when he pleaded guilty to an election law misdemeanor in connection with his 2012 run for the Assembly.

A State Supreme Court judge ruled in his favor, and he was the top vote-getter among seven candidates for the two tenant-elected seats on the board.

“This is another attempt to silence me because I am a critic of the Housing Authority,” Mascia said of this recent call for his resignation.

email: sschulman@buffnews.com, dsirtoricontina@buffnews.com and rmccarthy@buffnews.com