With new leadership on the horizon, there are some big changes occurring at the Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority, including 12 percent raises for union workers.
Within the next month or two, the authority board will be picking a new executive director. Current Interim Executive Director Gillian Brown one of the three finalists.
He appeared before the Common Council Tuesday to get approval of a new employee union contract and be there when Councilmembers continued to push for internal auditing. The interim director said city Comptroller Mark Schroeder is wrong about not having internal auditing; it occurs.
Brown also said the pay raise for workers is important, to increase morale and as the agency is re-organized internally.
"This is a pretty substantial raise because the union has been without a contract since 2011 and the union took zero for 2011 through 2016," Brown said. "So the '16-'17 raise is 10 percent and the '17-'18 raise is 2 percent."
A statement Wednesday morning from Brown to media also included a comment from the union.
"This is a fair deal for the employees and a fair deal for management," said Sean Carney, President of AFSCME Local 264. "I'm very pleased that we were finally able to arrive at an agreement."
Brown said the agency has been doing some hiring and will be doing more. In addition, new managerial positions have been created. The interim director said he is trying to ensure accountability.
"It will make a difference. It makes a difference when people know who to call and that when they call that person, a task gets done," he said. "It doesn't happen overnight. It happens when people take responsibility for their job and they own their job and they respond to the needs of the tenants and that's what we're here for."
He said the hiring and re-organization will not be complete when the new executive director is appointed, but it will be started.
The Common Council approved the contract with AFSCME Local 264, bargained by the authority, which runs until 2023, but sent to committee a plan to force internal auditing on the agency.
Schroeder spokesman Patrick Curry said the fiscal controls are vital.
"Whether it's Mr. Brown or the two other candidates that we don't really know about, we're hoping that new leadership can provide the spark that can make this agency more accountable, more transparent and provide better services to the people who live there and spend tax dollars wisely," Curry said.