The Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority chairman ruffled some feathers when he green-lighted movement on three projects Tuesday without first getting approval from the board of commissioners.
Two commissioners objected to how the matter was handled, indicated that they hadn’t received pertinent information about the projects and questioned the urgency that led to “this departure of due process.”
Chairman Michael A. Seaman said he has the authority to make that decision, and he doesn’t understand why the commissioners are upset. He said they had opportunities to review the items beforehand, and they still have the opportunity to reject the measures if they disagree with him.
The issue started with an email Seaman sent Tuesday to other commissioners stating that the board meeting scheduled for that afternoon was being canceled because not enough members could attend. He went on to say that he discussed with the executive staff the agenda items that needed to be acted upon in order “to meet deadlines and maintain continuity of business for the Authority.”
In other words, there was a time element associated with the three agenda items, and Seaman authorized Executive Director Dawn Sanders-Garrett and her staff to act on them. One item dealt with a $1.6 million roofing contract at the Kenfield housing development; another dealt with the sale of bonds for a senior housing project; and the third involved securing a developer for Perry Choice Neighborhood, a transformation plan for the community in and around the Perry Homes public housing development near downtown.
The email was sent to the five other commissioners: Vice Chairman Ronald Brown, Joseph Mascia, Hal D. Payne, Elaine Diallo and Donna M. Brown.
Both Mascia and Brown, the vice chairman, said they didn’t understand why Seaman would make such an authorization, nor could they recall a similar situation in the past seven years they have been on the board.
“I am surprised that these matters rose to a level of emergency that immediate action is directed without obtaining proper board approval,” said Brown. “We’ve moved on things that have been emergencies, but I don’t know why this happened. It is a departure from the way we do business. We could have moved” the canceled “meeting to another date. I don’t know what pre-empted that.”
Mascia explained that agenda items such as the ones Seaman authorized without board approval usually are recommended by various committees and dealt with by the full board during regular business meetings that are open to the public. Commissioners have an opportunity to ask questions, raise concerns and request additional information before voting to approve a measure, table it or reject it.
Seaman said he has the power to authorize the executive director in emergency situations in which timeliness is important, which he said was the case with the three items in question. Inaction could have jeopardized the projects by causing work delays, he said.
“I did not approve everything on the agenda, just the sensitive things. They are timely issues,” Seaman said. “If there is an emergency to move on, then we can do that.”
And, he added, the board still has a say in the matters.
“The board has the authority to reject my recommendation at the board meeting,” Seaman said. “I don’t understand why they’re having a panic attack.”
Tuesday’s canceled board meeting will be rescheduled for sometime next week.