The League of Women Voters of Buffalo Niagara and the Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority have been enjoined from holding an election of new tenant leaders at the Marine Drive Apartments. The election was set to take place Thursday.
However, on Friday, State Supreme Court Justice Donna M. Siwek issued a temporary injunction restraining the League of Women Voters from holding any election of officers of the Marine Drive Resident Council. Tuesday, Siwek held a conference call with legal representatives for the resident council and the authority, and decided that the temporary restraining order will remain in effect, according to Joseph Makowski, attorney for the resident council.
“She made it clear that there is to be no election of officers by the League of Women Voters or the Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority until she conducts a hearing on a preliminary injunction, or the case is resolved by the parties themselves,” Makowski said.
“It’s unusual to sue the League of Women Voters. They’re so highly regarded,” Makowski said.
“But,” he added, “they’ve been hired to run an election, and it’s not clear if they’re in violation of tenant bylaws.”
The residents’ also contend that the planned election would be a violation of a 2004 memorandum of understanding between the housing authority and the Marine Drive Tenant Association that “commits to the tenants that the development will not be managed or maintained by (the authority’s) existing staff,” and instead “be maintained as a separate development with a separate management company and separate maintenance and office workers.”
Marine Drive – which overlooks Erie Canal Harbor – is not public housing, but it is owned and overseen by the authority.
Lawyers for the parties are scheduled to meet at 9:30 a.m. Thursday in State Supreme Court over the authority’s role in setting up an election of tenant leaders at Marine Drive.
The election is meant to choose officers for the Marine Drive Resident Association, but Makowski said that the association already has a set of officers who were elected last year and whose terms do not end until 2015.
“We could wind up with two competing sets of officers, which would be a nightmare,” Makowski said. “We think the BMHA has decided they don’t want to do business with the current council.”
Makowski said that the authority has refused to recognize the resident council since it filed suit against the agency in 2011 in a dispute over the 2004 memorandum of understanding.
David Rodriguez, general counsel for the authority, declined to comment on the lawsuit. However, the authority has hired an outside attorney, Michael B. Risman of Hodgson Russ Attorneys, to represent it in the case.
“I think there’s a real process problem that Judge Siwek needs to work out by 9:30 a.m. Thursday,” Makowski said. “They need to explain this election to the satisfaction of the judge.”
News Staff Reporter Harold McNeil contributed to this report. email: firstname.lastname@example.org