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Ousted commissioner Mascia blasts mayor as ‘coward’ and ‘elitist’

Ousted housing authority commissioner Joseph A. Mascia on Saturday blasted Mayor Byron W. Brown as a “coward” and an “elitist” who is disenfranchising public housing residents by kicking the tenant commissioner off the Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority.

What’s more, Mascia vowed: “I’m not going away.”

Mascia’s attorney, Steven M. Cohen, said Brown’s action will be appealed, as will the recommendations of the hearing officer that were the basis for Brown’s decision.

In addition, Cohen said he will file for an injunction to prevent the BMHA’s June 14 tenant commissioner election from occurring unless Mascia’s name is on the ballot.

“We do not retreat from the reality that Joe made unfortunate and offensive statements,” Cohen said Saturday. “But his close friendships with so many people of every race, religion and denomination belie the notion that he is a racist.”

Mascia’s comments, Cohen said, were directed only at people with whom he has political disputes, and are therefore, political speech.

“The hearing officer’s report and recommendations don’t even pretend to take into consideration Joe’s case,” Cohen continued. “Her findings were made before she ever took the bench. For her to suggest Joe Mascia is a racist is contrary to the evidence.”

Hearing officer Ann E. Evanko, an attorney with Hurwitz & Fine, was not available to comment Saturday.

Brown on Friday announced he was removing Mascia from the BMHA board of commissioners, effectively immediately, based on a report submitted by Evanko, who oversaw a three-week public hearing on misconduct charges filed against Mascia. The mayor also said Mascia’s ouster precludes him from running for re-election in next month’s tenant commissioner elections.

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

Mascia, 70, lives in the Marine Drive Apartments, and has been a tenant commissioner since 2006. He was planning to run for re-election next month.

In her report, Evanko wrote that Mascia’s racist views and prejudices undermine his ability to serve in a “fair and impartial manner” on the Housing Authority.

“It’s clear to me from the hearing officer’s finding that Mr. Mascia is a racist masquerading as an activist,” Brown said when announcing Mascia would be removed from office.

After reviewing the mayor’s statements, Mascia on Saturday called Brown a “coward” for making a Memorial Day weekend announcement without having the courtesy to first notify Mascia of his decision.

Mascia said Brown is disenfranchising the BMHA tenants by not letting them decide in the coming election if Mascia should represent them.

Mascia also called Brown an “elitist,” adding, “I’ll stack my work in the community against his anytime.”

“I will continue to work and fight for the residents in housing, the poor, minority and disenfranchised in the community – something Mr. Brown has been unable to do with any success,” Mascia said.

The mayor, through spokesman Michael J. DeGeorge, issued the following statement: “The mayor acted after receiving the recommendation of hearing officer Ann Evanko. Mr. Mascia was served properly, notifying him that he had been terminated from the BMHA board before the information was publicly released. The hearing officer addressed the question of the mayor’s authority to remove a BMHA commissioner and found that this is well settled and that he does. We believe any higher court would agree.”