BUFFALO, N. Y. - The Masten District located on Buffalo's eastside, is where Cleveland, Ohio developers NRP Properties, wanted to build a $12 million affordable housing project. It turned into a legal battle with the developer alleging Buffalo's Mayor and others were all about "pay-to-play."
NRP Properties filed a lawsuit that has been dismissed by Federal Judge WIlliam Skretny based on legislative immunity. Legal analyst Barry Covert said "there's an old english common law rule that applies to all levels of legislature, whether its local, state or federal that says that legislators have immunity," adding the Mayor is untouchable "civilly, he really is untouchable, when he engages in legislative acts."
NRP's attorney Thomas Lane says there will be an appeal. Here is there statement.
"NRP is certainly surprised and disappointed by the Court's decision. After delaying the case for years, the City filed an eleventh hour motion based on technical legal arguments that NRP does not believe apply to the claims in this case. NRP expects to file a notice of appeal shortly and is optimistic that the claims will be fully reinstated by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. NRP notes that in reaching its decision, the Court has not made any substantive determination the defendants engaged in legal or permissible conduct. Indeed, the Court's decision is replete with references to the record corroborating the defendants and specifically Mayor Brown's participation in demanding a pay to play scheme. The decision explicitly references the record evidence that "NRP was 'put on the spot' during a call with the City when the City's representatives stated needed to 'make Stenhouse happy.'" The Court references the affidavit from Dep. Mayor Casey where he confirmed Mayor Brown insisted Stenhouse "had to be involved" in the project. The Court also references the declaration from Steven Weiss where he confirmed Mayor Brown insisted that NRP hire Stenhouse "or the deal will not go through" and where he further confirmed that once NRP refused to hire Stenhouse, the Mayor stated "I told you what you had to do and you hired the wrong company." Far from absolving Mayor Brown for his actions, the Court has simply found that a technical legal argument may allow Mayor Brown to escape a civil remedy for his actions. Again, NRP is optimistic the matter will be decided differently on appeal."
According to court documents, the Mayor wanted Rev. Richard Stenhouse to have a role in the development project.
Covert, who is not involved in thi case said, NRP has "some pretty compelling evidence that this was pay-to-play. The Mayor claims that he was disenfranchised, he didn't like the proposal that was going to go forward. He didn't think scattered housing, all in one area that it was no longer a good idea."
The attorney representing Mayor Brown is Michael Battle. He issued a statement, "we are pleased that the Court dismissed the case in its entirety. We are now putting this matter behind us and the Mayor will continue with his unwavering focus on moving the City forward and further accelerating the City's unprecedented renaissance."