BUFFALO, NY - Issues at the Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority over the years have been well-documented by 2 On Your Side, from crumbling apartment buildings to insect infestations and rising debt.
The list of problems at the BMHA seems to go on and on, and Thursday, a step to address those issues was approved — but it didn't come without some controversy.
"We need to manage and we need to lead and that's why this resolution is being submitted," said David Rodriguez, the new chairman of the board of commissioners for the BMHA.
And, he wasted little time in beginning a culture shift at the troubled housing authority.
"I submit that in the first quarter, probably the first three months, especially with the new board, new leadership we really need to understand and learn about the housing authority, and to do that we need executive staff here with us to work with us," Rodriguez said.
He put forward a resolution, immediately suspending business travel for executive staff and requiring that future vacation requests for top staff will only be approved by Rodriguez himself.
"I submit that we need to take action today to ensure that the executive is available to us," Rodriguez said.
"The executive is available!" interrupted Dawn Sanders-Garrett, the BMHA executive director.
"Excuse me," Rodriguez responded, "this resolution is set to only apply to exempt executive staff, my understanding is executive director, the assistant executive director."
Some commissioners had some issues with the restrictions.
"There was some questions about why we needed this particular resolution in lieu of procedures that were in place now," said Leonard Williams, a resident commissioner for the BMHA.
The already-existing procedures require executive staff to submit travel and vacation documents. Eventually, the resolution got the support of enough commissioners and was approved.
REPORTER: How do you feel about the travel and vacations, do you think that hampers you from doing your job?
"Have no problem with that," Sanders-Garrett said. "To be quite honest, none of the executive staff has taken more than a couple days of vacation here or there. There's not really enough time to take the time allotted that we have."
REPORTER: How would you assure residents that this isn't going to be a problem going forward on differences on the board?
"I would tell the residents that they should be optimistic because what we saw there was a healthy exchange of ideas," Rodriguez said.
This is the first time the BMHA board has met with its four new commissioners. Mayor Byron Brown shook up the board last month, saying the changes were needed to better prepare the agency for possible cutbacks in federal funding under the Trump administration.