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Mayor removes Mascia from BMHA Board, calls him a ‘racist’

Mayor Byron W. Brown Friday said he is removing suspended housing authority commissioner Joseph A. Mascia from the BMHA board based on an independent hearing officer’s recommendation.

“It’s clear to me from the hearing officer’s findings that Mr. Mascia is a racist masquerading as an activist,” Brown said in a written statement.

“He holds strong discriminatory beliefs against the people he claims to be helping,” Brown said of Mascia.

Mascia was suspended from the Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority Board in August after tape recordings surfaced of him using racist language to describe several of the city’s African-American leaders, including Brown, Council President Darius G. Pridgen and Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes, as well as some of the BMHA leadership.

The mayor then appointed attorney Ann E. Evanko to conduct a public hearing on misconduct charges filed against Mascia.

“After weighing substantial evidence presented during the public hearing that occurred over the course of a three-week period, Ms. Evanko found substantial grounds to recommend the removal of Mr. Mascia from the BMHA board,” Brown said. “After thoughtful consideration and deliberation, I am accepting her recommendation and removing Mr. Mascia from the BMHA board, effective immediately.”

In his statement, Brown said the removal prevents Mascia from seeking re-election as a tenant commissioner in the June 14 BMHA election.

In her report, Evanko wrote: “I find that Mascia’s prejudices and racist views have influenced his abilities to conduct his duties and responsibilities as a commissioner in a fair and impartial manner and necessarily affect his judgment, decision-making ability, impartiality and independence as a commissioner of the BMHA.”

Mascia said he had no immediate comment on Brown’s ruling.

Dawn E. Sanders-Garrett, executive director of the BMHA, said Brown’s decision “brings closure to a difficult chapter, which the authority and its residents have been dealing with for a very long time.”

The BMHA Board of Commissioners and its ethics committee unanimously supported the formal request for Mascia’s removal, which was presented to Brown on Aug. 4.

“We are pleased the mayor appointed a hearing officer to conduct a thorough, independent review of the authority’s charges against Mr. Mascia,” Sanders-Garrett added. “The BMHA looks forward to upcoming tenant commissioner elections, in which two of our residents will be selected to join our board. This vote will give us a fresh start, as we begin our 2016-17 fiscal year on July 1, with a full, seven-member board of commissioners in place.”

Mascia, 70, who lives in the Marine Drive Apartments, has been an elected BMHA tenant commissioner since 2006. For much of his tenure, he has been an outspoken critic of the authority’s top managers. Mascia’s current two-year term expires in June.

Last year, while running for the Fillmore District Council seat, an audiotape surfaced in which Mascia repeatedly using the “N-word” to refer to Buffalo’s African-American leaders. Release of the tape and its contents led to calls for Mascia to drop out of the Council race, but he refused. Instead, he apologized for the comments, which he said were made in a moment of frustration and do not reflect his true feelings.

The tape, he said, was secretly recorded by a man he considered a friend, while the two were driving to Albany. Mascia said the recording was politically motivated.

The man who recorded the tape, Paul Christopher, told The News at the time the tape became public that he recorded the conversation because he has known Mascia for decades, had grown tired of his racial views and thought the public should be aware of them.

Mascia lost the Fillmore District primary, and was suspended by Brown pending the hearing overseen by Evanko.