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State ruling would ban Mascia from seeking BMHA post for four years

New York State is endorsing a version of the Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority’s so-called “Mascia Rule.”

If a tenant commissioner is removed from office for violating the state Public Housing Law, the BMHA can ban that person from seeking re-election to the authority board for at least two terms, or four years, the state Division of Housing and Community Renewal has ruled, according to BMHA officials.

The state ruling is in response to the BMHA’s request to approve a bylaw revision permanently banning from re-election any tenant commissioner removed from office for violating the state law.

The BMHA did not specify anyone in particular in its proposed ban, but the bylaw revision was prompted by the case of suspended tenant commissioner Joseph A. Mascia.

Mascia was suspended, and brought up on disciplinary charges, after a secretly recorded tape of him repeatedly using the “N-word” in reference to Buffalo’s African-American leaders was publicly released last July. A hearing on the charges was held in December, and the hearing officer is expected to rule within the next 60 days whether Mascia’s racist rant violated the state Public Housing Law, and whether he should be removed from the BMHA board of commissioners.

But even as that hearing was taking place, Mascia was publicly talking about his plans to seek re-election in June, when his current two-year term expires – regardless of whether he’s kicked off the board for the remainder of his current term or not.

In January, the BMHA, recognizing its bylaws were silent on the issue of an ousted commissioner seeking re-election, passed a bylaws revision, which was quickly dubbed the “Mascia Rule.”

The change was sent to the state, which must approve any bylaw changes. The state responded that an individual removed for violating the state Public Housing Law can be barred from seeking re-election for two terms. If the individual is interested in seeking re-election after those four years, the BMHA must review the request and determine if a continued prohibition is appropriate, BMHA officials said in explaining the state ruling.

Contacted by The Buffalo News, Mascia Thursday said he rejects the BMHA’s claim and said he plans to seek another term.

“I don’t accept their ruling that I can’t run for office,” he said. “I did not commit a crime. I’m not a felon, To be removed for cause, you have to have malfeasance, misappropriation of funds. I still have civil rights. Freedom of speech.”

Mascia then said that he has not, at this time, been removed from office, so the state ruling would not affect him anyway.

“I haven’t been removed yet,” he said. “We are already in the election cycle. This would be for a future commissioner, not anyone presently on the board.”

Mascia, 70, has been an elected tenant commissioner since 2006.