The firing of Rochester Housing Authority Director Alex Castro his replacement by City Councilman Adam McFadden raise a number of questions.
1. What did Castro do?
According to public housing residents and previous board members, Castro was popular and competent. But when he was fired, RHA Board Chairman George Moses said there were “questionable business practices” and Castro “stonewalled” the board’s requests for information. Mayor Lovely Warren said she’s received information that is “appalling” and residents complained of bad living conditions and safety issues. Moses and Warren say they cannot give specifics because the matter is a “personnel issue.”
This is a public agency and Castro was earning six figures. There’s nothing inherently private about his employment. His firing could cost taxpayers $1 million. More importantly, if there are major problems at this authority, which has a $62 million budget and serves 22,000 residents, we need to know what’s happening.
If the mayor truly wants to move on from this controversy, the public deserves answers.
2. Was there a deal in place?
At the October 14 meeting, McFadden was hired immediately after Castro was fired. McFadden said he didn’t know he had been immediately appointed. The next day, Moses said he had other candidates to consider, misleading the public about what happened at the meeting. Do you believe McFadden’s name came up for the first time on October 14?(See Question #3.)
3. What did the mayor know and when did she know it?
I first heard Castro could be fired and replaced by McFadden back in August. When I made phone calls, I had sources who heard the same. If reporters, political operatives and City Hall workers had heard this was coming, how could the mayor not know? That begs the question of whether she ordered McFadden’s hire, helped orchestrate it or tacitly condoned it. She absolutely had the power to make these moves, as she appointed five of seven board members. She also had the power to stop the train from leaving the station.
The mayor said yesterday, “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.”
But what did she know before it all went down?
4. How is McFadden the problem?
The mayor threw McFadden under the bus when she asked him to step down. It’s true he is a polarizing figure. But McFadden did not fire Castro or hire himself. The mayor’s board did. Last week, the mayor demanded answers from the board on the situation. This week, she is standing solidly behind her picks, despite counsel from some supporters to clean house.
By only calling for McFadden’s resignation, the mayor has twisted herself into a pretzel. She’s also now at the center of the controversy.
5. Why does the mayor constantly need do-overs?
The mayor’s press strategy needs a tremendous amount of work. You can’t just blame her advisers. More than once, I’ve been told she disregards their advice.
Warren seemed totally unprepared for my question yesterday about whether she had asked Moses and McFadden to resign. There were three TV stations present. She was not direct, forceful or clear. Hours later, she called the one TV station not present to explain herself. She clearly wanted to talk to reporters who do not have as much knowledge of the situation, instead of those who have covered the story from the beginning.
Her press statement explaining why she wanted McFadden to resign was similarly lacking, with vague statements like, “Everyone knows what I went through at the beginning of the year thus I would never condone this.”
But on October 16, she told me she supported the board’s actions. That means she “condoned this,” until she felt the heat.
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