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Reform at top of Brown's list as new BMHA executive director

Topping the list of Gillian Brown's goals to reform the Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority: reorganizing the staff, resolving lingering issues from a recent U.S. Housing and Urban Development audit and addressing the vacancy rate.

"We have a lot of work to do," Brown said Thursday after receiving a two-year contract to serve as the agency's executive director. "There are a number of challenges. We don't have enough staff. We don't have a lot of money. And we have deferred maintenance for a long time."

He took over at the BMHA in March on an interim basis, when Dawn E. Sanders-Garrett resigned in the wake of widespread criticism over questionable spending practices and poor conditions in many apartments. The board of commissioners appointed him to the permanent position in September but did not vote on the terms of his contract until Thursday.

Brown will be paid $134,640, which reflects a 12.2 percent increase from what Sanders-Garrett was earning when she resigned in March. The percentage pay increase mirrors that given to the BMHA's trade union in September, as is customary.

Brown waived the option to receive a vehicle. Instead, he will receive a $225 monthly stipend, the same amount as the authority's other employees. He will receive an annual $1,200 stipend in lieu of health insurance, identical to that offered to union workers who forego insurance. He also waived the option to receive a cellphone.

Common Council President Darius G. Pridgen praised Gillian Brown's work leading the authority over the past few months. The BMHA's communication with the Council has improved dramatically during that time, Pridgen said.

He cited a recent problem with heating in one of the authority's complexes.

"I not only got a call, I got a text with updates," Pridgen said. "And staff at one facility even stayed until 1 in the morning to take care of those residents."

Brown is not without critics, though.

"Hell no, we don't want Gillian Brown. He's part of the problem," said Nate Boyd, a community activist. "Why on earth would they spend all that money to do a search if they're just going to appoint a friend of Mayor Brown?"

Gillian Brown served as an attorney in the housing authority from 1995 to 2007. He left soon after Sanders-Garrett was appointed as its leader in 2007. Brown returned to the BMHA as an attorney in November 2017.

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