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AMHERST TIMES: Coalition advocates for timely access to information

By Paul Wof
AMHERST TIMES


The Buffalo News recently did an article about a conflict of interest situation where contracts were awarded to a company.
At the Thursday July 19th meeting of the Buffalo Niagara Coalition for Open Government the group will discuss the information contained in the following letter that Paul Wolf would like to send to Gillian Brown, Esq., Executive Director of the Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority

_________________

July 20, 2018
Gillian Brown, Esq.
Executive Director
Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority
300 Perry Street
Buffalo, New York 14204
Re: Addressing BMHA Employee and Vendor Conflicts of Interest
Dear Mr. Brown:
A recent Buffalo News article brought to light information regarding a vendor obtaining $391,000 from BMHA contracts, while the vendor had a relative of a BMHA employee on their payroll. The BMHA employee had the authority to direct contracts to the vendor that employed his brother. The circumstances described in the Buffalo News article appear to be an improper conflict of interest.
The key to preventing conflicts of interest is to have policies and procedures in place whereby family and business relationships are disclosed. Under New York State Public Authorities Law Section 2825, BMHA Commissioners and policy making employees are required to complete an annual financial disclosure form. It is important that the financial disclosure form being utilized asks for information regarding the private business interests of the family members of BMHA employees.
Any BMHA employee that has contracting authority such as the Asset Manager, Superintendents of Maintenance and Assistant Superintendents of Maintenance, should be required to complete annual disclosure forms that request information regarding family member private business interests. Likewise, BMHA vendors should be required to complete an annual disclosure form, where they are required to disclose any family relationships their owners/employees have with BMHA employees.
Our organization recently completed a report where we reviewed the annual disclosure forms used by ten local governments in Erie and Niagara County. Our report recommends sixteen items that should be addressed in a disclosure form. A copy of our report is enclosed.
We are glad to see that you are taking immediate steps to address this situation and offer this information to assist in your goal of making changes at BMHA. We welcome the opportunity to work together with you.
Sincerely,
Paul Wolf, President
James Tricoli, Vice President



Originally published on Amherst Times. Republished with permission.