Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren said in a statement released moments ago that she has asked Adam McFadden to resign his temporary appointment at the Rochester Housing Authority and to refrain from seeking the job on a permanent basis.
McFadden has reportedly declined her request to step down, but says that he won't seek a permanent appointment.
The scandal at the Rochester Housing Authority started earlier this month when the board voted to dismiss its executive director, Alex Castro, and replace him with McFadden, a Warren ally and sitting member of City Council. McFadden's appointment is for three months, but it's no secret that he's wanted the job for some time.
The abrupt dismissal of Castro and the immediate hire of McFadden prompted accusations of cronyism, particularly since McFadden does not have a background in housing. Many also wondered if McFadden's position on council prohibited him from joining RHA. Castro's dismissal also upset many members of the Hispanic community, who rallied for the ousted leader at a recent meeting of the RHA board.
It is still not clear why Castro was let go, but the RHA board has made an issue of the terms of his employment contract. And a forensic audit is under way of the RHA's bidding process and other internal procedures. The board has claimed a pattern of questionable business practices under Castro.
City Council member Jackie Ortiz has called for an investigation into Castro's dismissal. HUD is also reviewing the situation. Justice for Rochester, an activist group that has sprung up in the wake of the RHA scandal, wants the New York State attorney general and HUD to investigate the RHA board and Mayor Warren. The contact for the group is Carol Schwartz, past president of the RHA board and vocal critic of the board's actions in this case.
Although the RHA board ostensibly operates independent of city government, the mayor does appoint five of the seven sitting board members. Warren replaced all five members when she became mayor. And Warren intervened not long after the scandal exploded in the media, saying that she'd ask for the resignations of the entire board if they didn't tell her why they fired Castro. Because McFadden is a Warren ally, some people saw the move as Warren throwing McFadden to the wolves while she sought political cover.
At last Wednesday's Rochester Housing Authority board meeting, many of our public housing residents packed a small room and detailed substandard housing conditions.
Between these complaints and the reasons outlined in a letter to T. Andrew Brown, City Corporation Counsel, from RHA labor council last week, it appeared that a change in Rochester Housing Authority leadership was needed. There has been an ongoing culture at the RHA which put the needs of executives above the needs of tenants.
Since taking office, I have appointed five members to the Rochester Housing Authority. One position was vacant, two terms had expired, and the other two members had not been appointed legally. The board members that I appointed collectively have vast housing, community and legal experience.
There is no doubt that the new board's actions raised many questions in the way they selected an interim executive director. However, since I appointed these members I have not been involved with any of the Authority's business. It operates as a separate entity.
I was notified along with everyone else of both the dismissal of Alex Castro and the hiring of Adam McFadden, as interim director of the Authority.
This lack of transparency in the process involved in hiring the interim director has resulted in my asking him now to resign as interim director and not seek the permanent appointment because the board has work that it needs to do on behalf of the residents of RHA.
I explained to my friend and political ally that his hasty appointment damaged the integrity of the process, created unnecessary racial tension, and put the needs of the 22,000 residents of the Authority on the back burner.
I do, however, stand by the current board in their decision to dismiss Alex Castro. Prior to the new board taking over, the Rochester Housing Authority created a culture that ignored the plight of many residents who complained of sub-standard living conditions, safety and other management issues.
The information provided to my corporation counsel about Mr. Castro's dismissal is appalling and truly a personnel matter that transcends the race of the individual dismissed.
Everyone knows what I went through at the beginning of the year thus I would never condone this. I have spoken with the board since the appointment of Mr. McFadden, and I have implored them to conduct a national search for a director in a transparent and inclusive manner.
Protecting the public, especially the most vulnerable among us, must transcend politics.