Next week’s election for two tenant commissioner positions on the Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority board has been further delayed after a judge put off a hearing originally scheduled for today on candidate Joseph A. Mascia’s bid to get back on the ballot.
State Supreme Court Justice Shirley Troutman will hold the hearing June 16 on Mascia’s request for a court order putting his name back on the ballot.
Mascia’s name was removed last month in a legal dispute over whether he is still a tenant commissioner following his April guilty plea in City Court to a misdemeanor.
The judge rescheduled the hearing to give former Erie County Attorney Laurence K. Rubin, recently retained to represent the BMHA and the League of Women Voters of Buffalo Niagara – which is running the election and removed Mascia from the ballot – time to respond to Mascia’s legal action against them and BMHA general counsel David Rodriguez.
In the meantime, a temporary restraining order prevents the league from holding the election, originally scheduled for Tuesday, without Mascia on the ballot, pending Troutman’s decision in the case.
The league, in a May 23 letter to Mascia, said it took his name off the ballot because he claimed in an April 11 candidate’s interview with the league that he was a BMHA tenant commissioner when he was not.
It said his position on the BMHA board automatically became vacant earlier that day when he pleaded guilty to an election law misdemeanor for failing to file campaign financial disclosure statements in his unsuccessful 2012 run for a State Assembly seat.
It said his willful false statements identifying himself as a tenant commissioner were in violation of the league’s core values of honesty, transparency and ethical conduct.
His attorney, Joseph G. Makowski, maintains that Mascia is still a tenant commissioner.
Makowski disputes the contention of the league, the BMHA and Rodriguez that the election law misdemeanor was a violation of Mascia’s oath of office under the state Public Officers Law, automatically vacating his tenant commissioner position. He says Mascia’s failure to file campaign financial disclosure statements is not a crime of moral turpitude and therefore not a violation of his oath of office.
Rubin has experience in legal cases involving the Public Officers Law and election law.
As county attorney, he issued a legal opinion in a 2007 case involving then-County Legislator George Holt, who pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges of not turning over the state sales tax receipts collected at his restaurant. Rubin said that under the Public Officers Law, Holt vacated the office in making the plea, since it involved a violation of his oath of office.
Holt sued the county and lost. He appealed, and the appellate courts upheld Rubin’s position.