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Why I Hung Up On BMHA’s Dawn Sanders

I’m not proud of myself for doing it.

Honestly, I’m usually a patient person. Genial. Even folks who don’t like me, or who disagree with my politics and the things I write, tend to allow me those qualities.

But on Thursday afternoon, a total breakdown in my normally placid demeanor: I slammed down the phone receiver in mid-conversation with Dawn Sanders, the executive director of the Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority.

Sanders had called to complain about a short item in a column I wrote this week, about two BMHA vans delivering kids wearing Byron Brown t-shirts to last Saturday’s Columbus Day Parade on Hertel Avenue. The kids were apparently passing out Andrew Cuomo literature. Using public property in the service of political work is, of course, wrong. Small transgression, small item in my column—maybe 150 words.

Sanders took issue with the part in which I wrote that resident BMHA commissioner Joe Mascia, who witnessed the vans and the kids, had asked Sanders and BMHA chairman Mike Seaman to tell him who had authorized the use of the vans. Sanders insisted that Mascia had never talked to her, and that she had no emails from him on the matter. She was angry at me for not calling her to confirm whether Mascia had brought the matter to her attention. She said the first she’d heard of the issue was Wednesday, October 13.

Here’s the email Mascia sent to both Sanders and Seaman on October 10:

From: Joe Mascia
Date: 10/10/2010 7:58:52 PM
Subject: vans

Mike, Who authorized the use of BMHA vans to transport non employees to the
Columbus Parade for a political demonstration? I did see David Crandville
there organizing kids with City of Buffalo Mayor Brown t-shirts. The people
on the vans had the same t-shirts.
 And I did see the BMHA vans myself.

So I knew that Mascia had indeed asked her about the matter, and it frustrated me to hear her claim otherwise: Was she lying or admitting that she hadn’t read email from one of her commissioners for three days? Either answer is bad.

At the beginning of the conversation, Sanders told me that there had been no BMHA vans at the event. I told her that I had independent corroboration that BMHA vans had been seen at the event, and asked her if she was contradicting those accounts on the record, as executive director of BMHA. She backed off and said she was not saying that. She said that BMHA was currently looking into the issue.

This should have pleased me, I guess, except it was merely a confirmation of exactly what I had written in the column: “Mascia asked BMHA’s executive director, Dawn Sanders, and its chairman, Mike Seaman, the same question. He was told they were looking into the matter.”

So why was Sanders scolding me? My story checked out.

I asked her, “So BMHA is indeed currently looking into the matter?”

She wouldn’t answer the question. (I recorded the conversation, but can’t listen to it as I write this, so I will not try to approximate her comments except to say she continued to insist that Mascia had never informed her of the issue.) This is a pet peeve of mine: the unwillingness of a public official to answer a simple question.

“Is BMHA currently looking into the matter?” I repeated, frustration creeping into my tone. “It’s a yes or no question.”

Equivocation. Avoidance.

Hadn’t she just told me they were looking into it? Why wouldn’t she just say so?

“Yes or no?” I was almost shouting now.

More equivocation.

I hung up, rose and put on my coat, told my fellow AV staffers I’d had enough for the day, and walked out the door.

Sorry, Dawn, I should not have hung up. That was rude. It was also counterproductive. I should have kept you on the line and talking.

  • taxpayer

    Keep up the good work Geoff (except for hanging up) you are exposing these politca hacks for what they are..frauds. Is it the Mayor that appointed this lady to her post? Maybe you used to many big words she couldnt understand and confused her.

  • Richard Kern


    Thanks for keeping the spotlight on BMHA’s (& HUD’s?) endless misconduct.

    Very troubling are persistent rumors that Dawn Sanders might replace retiring Steve Banko as Bflo HUD Office manager. Is there any substance to those rumors?

    I have watched & reported for decades on BMHA’s role as Bflo’s flagship ‘poverty industry’ turning endless $100’s of millions of HUD subsidies into patronage jobs & developer profits . . as poverty & blight in Bflo steadily deepened.

    Recently, Sanders seems to be speeding up the ‘patronage pit’ at BMHA, as Granville is only the latest of a parade of Byron Brown cronies to land good jobs at BMHA, with no known qualifications.

    The most dramatic may be George Stokes,(uncle of Leonard Stokes), Dem Party VP & new husband of Crystal Peoples(-Stokes), who is one of TWO “crime analysts”, after years of having none. The other “analyst” is Al Thompson Jr, son of longtime Dem Party operative Al Thompson Sr.

    What the “analysts” do is top secret. The last one about five years ago was Leonard Sciolino Jr (III?) son of the Parking Commissioner.

    The HUD Office merely winks at BMHA misconduct, while steadily pouring in more funds to demolish & rebuild public housing at incredible cost, as 100’s of neighborhoods city-wide are drowning in cheap, abandoned & blighted housing.

    Povery is big business in Bflo!

    Geoff, although there is concensus in Bflo that BMHA is unreformable, perhaps you might try asking for ‘crime analysis’ of the recent parade incident?

  • Desire Euson

    Mr. Kern, you hit it right on the nail with that comment!!

  • Jones Bones

    BMHA Is a patronage dumping ground for Brown. Dawn Sanders claim to fame is that she is a longtime Grassroot operstive who got the job due to Crystal People-Stokes lobbying Casey abd Brown for it. Pay back was that she had to hire Stokes for the no show job. As for Al Thompson, jr. and George Stokes being crime analyst, what crimes are they analyzing, their own. I don’t think either one of these former or current abusers of all thing illegal, will pass a smell test. Check the police report for them. You might be surprised.

  • treeman

    Very very disturbing if Sanders does indeed get that HUD post. With the dissolution of BERC, (which did have a few patronage employees put into place by the Mayor over the last few years,seems many people think it was all patronage but that is not true)and the business assistance functions moving to BURA, it gives the Mayor more oppurtunity to fraudulanty send our tax dollars to his freinds for payback( One Sunset, GiGi’s, Bethel,and many more). At least BERC had some semblence of independence. BURA is totally controlled by the Mayor and his band of criminals. Shame on HUD, the Coomon Council, and the BERC Board for allowing this to happen.

  • Mike

    Government officials using government resources for illegal purposes

    Artvoice exposes govt patronage and corruption and bureaucrat prevarication…

    And yet you liberals will STILL want government to control everything