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BMHA tenant groups push for Mascia to resign

The major resident organizations at the Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority want Joseph A. Mascia to resign from the agency’s board of commissioners, the head of one of the groups said Tuesday.

“We do not want Joe to represent us,” said Sam Smith, chairman of the authoritywide Resident Council.

“To give folks the impression that public housing residents would accept someone who has called our leaders and pastor the N-word, that we are some way accepting that we want this person to represent us, nothing can be further from the truth,” Smith said.

Smith said he spoke with Mascia after The Buffalo News last week reported on the taped conversation in which Mascia repeatedly used the N-word when referring to Buffalo’s African-American leaders.

“We had a conversation Friday,” Smith said. “I made it clear to him, he needed to resign.”

Mascia, at the time, agreed that he would step down, Smith said.

So when another resident group, the Residents Advisory Board, met Monday with plans to take up the issue and possibly publicly vilify Mascia, Smith told them that there was no need to do that. Mascia, he told the group, had agreed to resign. The resignation, Smith said, was supposed to occur Tuesday.

But Mascia told The News that there must have been a misunderstanding. Mascia said he agreed to meet with Smith to discuss the issue, including whether it would be necessary to step down. But, Mascia said, he never agreed to step down, and currently has no plans to.

“If I resign, it’s an admission of guilt, that I committed some kind of crime,” Mascia said. “I did not commit a crime. It’s not a crime to say your First Amendment rights. I did something inexcusable. Terrible. I did not commit a crime.”

Mascia, 70, also told The News that his work at the BMHA is not finished, and implied that if he left, no one else would be able to get the job done.

“There’s still too many things I need to do,” he said. “You think there is someone who can take my place? I have been there for nine years. You don’t hear of anyone else speaking up,exposing what is going on.”

Mascia also said he continues to hear from BMHA tenants who do not want him to step down.

So while Smith was expecting Mascia to step down Tuesday, that didn’t happen.

As a result, the Residents Advisory Board plans to reconvene, possibly at the end of this week or early next, to discuss the Mascia situation, and likely call on him to resign.

Smith said the resident groups may not have the authority to oust Mascia if he refuses to step down, but the vote will be on the record, and the groups will support any efforts taken by the BMHA to remove him from office.

The BMHA’s board of commissioners last week asked for Mascia to resign. He refused. As a result, the BMHA’s ethics committee is scheduled to meet Wednesday to also take up the issue.

The committee is expected within 20 days to make a recommendation to Mayor Byron W. Brown on whether Mascia should be removed or disciplined for his comments. Brown then could appoint a hearing officer to determine what action will be taken.

Smith, meanwhile, said he’s hoping that Mascia will resign. He said that Mascia has done good things during his tenure and that the residents would like to continue working with him in some way. “We intend to still work with Joe if he has ideas,” Smith said.

But what Mascia said, Smith continued, is despicable, and not something you can “apologize your way out of.”

Mascia’s refusal to step down, Smith added, indicates his arrogance and ego.

For every person telling Mascia to stay, Smith said, “there are 50 more who want him to resign.”

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