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Judge dismisses Mascia's suit to regain BMHA seat

Joseph A. Mascia lost his bid to overturn his removal from the board of the Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority, with a State Supreme Court justice dismissing his case against the city, Mayor Byron W. Brown, the BMHA and individual commissioners.

Justice John L. Michalski issued his decision Friday, saying he found no basis for Mascia’s claim that his removal from the board in May 2016 was unconstitutional.

"It is our opinion that the facts and the law compelled a different result," said Mascia’s attorney, Steven M. Cohen. "We are going to appeal."

Mascia was elected in 2006 as a tenant representative on the BMHA board. In 2015, a friend of Mascia’s recorded Mascia making statements that Michalski described as “highly racially insensitive” and “deplorable.” On the recording, Mascia is heard referring to the mayor, board members and other elected officials using the N-word, among other slurs.

Brown suspended Mascia from his seat and appointed a hearing officer to review the matter. After hearing testimony from both sides, the officer concluded that Mascia had violated six of the eight points of the BMHA Code of Ethics. Brown removed him from his seat.

Cohen had argued that as a tenant-elected commissioner rather than a mayoral appointee, Mascia could not be removed by the mayor. He argued that it was unconstitutional for one elected official to individually exercise that authority over another elected official. He said a state law allowing for removal of commissioners was outdated.

Michalski responded that if legislators had wanted to differentiate between removing appointed and elected commissioners they could have. Michalski also ruled that an amendment passed by the board in February that disqualifies a removed tenant commissioner from candidacy in the next election was not unconstitutional.

Michalski said, in his opinion, “It is difficult to conceive how (the city and BMHA) could have provided (Mascia) a fairer, more thorough and more impartial process than what he received from start to finish.”

The mayor responded to the decision on Friday evening, telling The Buffalo News in an emailed statement he was "very pleased the court has denied all Mr. Mascia’s requests and has dismissed his petition in its entirety."

"In his ruling, State Supreme Court Justice John Michalski found Mr. Mascia was afforded due process via my administration’s decision to hold a hearing overseen by an impartial, third-party hearing officer, finding no evidence Mr. Mascia was improperly removed from his Tenant Commissioner seat on the Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority Board of Commissioners, following charges of misconduct," said Brown, in part, in the statement.

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