Board member to sue Gloversville Housing Authority

GLOVERSVILLE — Jason Sweeney, a resident commissioner of the Gloversville Housing Authority, says he has retained Mayfield-based attorney Ronald Schur and plans to file a lawsuit against the GHA for allegedly denying him access to a board meeting Monday.

“I want the public to know, I hired Ron Schur and we are going to file an Article 78 [proceeding],” Sweeney said. “We are going to be contacting New York state and the attorney general’s office, and we also want it to be known that we think [GHA Executive Director Tim] Mattice and [former GHA Board Chairman] Tony Ferraro are tampering with evidence because they have suspended these workers.”

The workers Sweeney referred to are four GHA employees suspended without pay on Jan. 4 — Tina Sena, Linda Lizio and Janet Luck, and maintenance worker Joe Battaglia. The four were among the nine GHA employees who signed a letter of complaint Dec. 29 alleging Mattice had ordered GHA employees to work for the nonprofit the Gloversville Housing and Neighborhood Improvement Corp. and to do housing improvements at Ferraro’s home; and that Mattice had created a hostile work environment for authority employees.

Sweeney, who was elected by the residents of the DuBois Garden Apartment Complex in June to serve on the GHA board, says he thinks he was locked out of the closed-door GHA board meeting Monday due to his support for the suspended workers.

The GHA Board of Directors includes members — called commissioners — appointed by the mayor and the Common Council, including Ferraro, Michael Ponticello, Dorothy Boroson, Mary Peterson and James DelSavio, as well as two elected resident commissioners, Sweeney and Bernard Manzer.

A legal quorum of the board appears to have gathered Monday at the GHA’s 181 West St. office. Sweeney said it may be that the board voted to go into executive session to discuss its legal strategy in the wake of the employee complaint and suspension controversy, but he doesn’t know because he wasn’t granted access to the GHA office area where the meeting was taking place. He was told to wait in the GHA’s heated lobby instead.

A Leader-Herald reporter observed Sweeney being denied access to the GHA meeting for approximately 45 minutes after the time Sweeney believes the meeting began, at about 11 a.m. He then left to attend to personal business, he said.

Sweeney said he was later called by GHA employee Sherri McCloskey and told he could now come into the meeting, but Sweeney said he told her it was too late to return. Sweeney said GHA officials then put him in contact with U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development officials, so he could provide them with the information he has pertaining to the controversy with the suspended workers.

Other business beyond legal strategy appears to have been conducted at the GHA board meeting. Ferraro, as he was leaving the meeting, told the Leader-Herald he has chosen to step down as board chairman in order to give the new interim chairman, Ponticello, time to learn the chairman’s role before Ferraro leaves office in April. Ponticello later confirmed he has been named interim chairman and that Ferraro left his office of his own choice.

Both Ferraro and Ponticello directed all questions about the authority controversy and the situation with Sweeney to the GHA’s legal counsel, Gloversville law firm Wood, Seward & McGuire.

GHA attorney Ben McGuire said he isn’t sure what happened at the GHA’s Monday meeting.

“I was actually, unfortunately, not present at that meeting, so I’m not aware of anything that occurred from that current last meeting,” McGuire said.

Robert Freeman, executive director of the state Committee on Open Government, told the Leader-Herald Monday that the Gloversville Housing Authority’s Board of Directors is subject to New York state’s Open Meetings Law, which means the board should have convened in public session and then voted to go into executive session for one of the legally valid reasons to go into executive session. Freeman said there is no valid reason for excluding a board member from an executive session.

Sweeney said he doesn’t understand why the other elected resident commissioner, Manzer, was allowed into the meeting while he was not.

“It’s New York state law that they have to let me in,” he said.

Sweeney said he has been notified by authority officials of a GHA board meeting scheduled for noon today, which he plans to attend.