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Routine BMHA election takes dramatic turn with court ruling, recount

A routine tenant commissioner election at the Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority took on the feel of hardball politics, starting with an attempt to stop the voting on Election Day and ending with a recount that delayed the results for a week.

In the end, incumbent Leonard Williams of the Kenfield Homes won re-election to his fifth two-year term on the BMHA Board of Commissioners. His running mate, newcomer Emily Robinson of Langfield Homes, also won, knocking out the other incumbent, Robin Edwards.

The two join five mayoral employees to comprise the seven-member BMHA board. Their terms start July 1. Commissioners are paid $2,000 annually to serve.

Early in the election process, former Tenant Commissioner Joseph Mascia, who was ousted from the board in 2015 for making racist comments, challenged a BMHA ban prohibiting him from running in this years's election.

In the week leading up to the June 12 vote, Mascia and his attorney, Steven Cohen, were in court to try to get Mascia put immediately on the ballot, or to get the election postponed until Mascia's challenge to the ban was heard in the state Court of Appeals, according to Mascia.

There wasn't a judge available to rule on the request until the day of the election, Mascia said. During the court proceeding, State Supreme Court Justice Joseph R. Glownia refused to stop the election. Mascia's appeal is set to be heard in September.

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The BMHA tenant election was run by the League of Women Voters.

When the polls closed and the votes were counted, Robinson was in the lead, followed by Williams, then Edwards, who was elected along with Williams in 2016 to a two-year term. Candidate Renato Graham came in fourth, followed by Dennis Waite, who was in last place.

But it appeared votes from one voting machine may not have been completely counted, and questions were being raised by some candidates about the validity of some mailed-in ballots, so a recount was requested, and held last Friday.

In the recount, Robinson won with 220 votes, followed by Williams with 184. Graham came in third place with 167, while Edwards was fourth with 163. Waite trailed with 119 votes, according to the League of Women Voters.

The winners didn't change, but an additional 91 votes were counted.

The BMHA has 27 developments serving about 10,000 residents.

Williams said the most important issue the BMHA board needs to address in the coming year is selecting an executive director to replace Dawn Sanders-Garrett, who resigned in mid-March.

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