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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.


Links of the Day:


– Astorino is within four points of Cuomo in the Syracuse area.

Cuomo and Christie’s Ebola strategies are based on politics, not science.

– The Democrat and Chronicle makes cutting jobs and forcing reporters to reapply for their own jobs just wonderful.

– “If…Jaylen Fryberg, had been a Muslim, his actions would have instantly been deemed a terror attack.”

– In Denmark, a Big Mac costs 80 cents more and fast food workers get paid $20 and hour.

– A former Kodak photographer finds old film damaged by bacteria. But he’s not disappointed!

8 Responses to Five Questions About RHA Mess

  1. As one of the D&C writers noted Sunday, at least the Republicans do a far smoother job of pulling sleazy crap than the Democrats. Soooo inept, so transparent; it would be comforting, in an odd sort of way, if the current administration had more of a clue on how to be disreputable, sly, and effective.

  2. Will McFadden be replaced by Uncle Reggie?

  3. Great questions, Rachel! Keep up the good work… this is a ridiculous and embarrassing situation for our community, not to mention, costly in terms of wasted time, resources and perhaps severance to Mr. Castro. And, while we may not agree with Adam McFadden all of the time, it appears like he has been unfairly scapegoated in this… I would run from this mess if I were him. Mr. Moses, the Board and the Mayor really need to start telling the truth and treating the residents of this community – to whom each is accountable – with a little more respect and honesty and take the right steps to remedy this situation.

    • You can say McFadden was scapegoated if you want, but he applied for the job before Castro and didn’t get it due to lack of experience in the housing field.

      Did that change?

  4. How many times has the mayor been caught in a lie and all DEM supporters can say REPS lie better? The reasons DEM leaders get away with it is because in most cases their supporters and the press let them …..and make excuses for them.

    Clinton lied to a grand jury, lost his law licence, had sex with a 22yr old intern and today he’s a hero among DEMS and the press and both local universities have paid him tons of money to speak on their campus. The current PREZ has lied numerous times (if you like your doctor or the IRS scandal) and Dems have no problem with it. Sounds like problem party wide. Doesn’t personal integrity matter?

    Is the RHA Boards members a paid position and if so how much for how many meetings?

  5. Wouldn’t it be nice if elected officials had to wear a polygraph during press conferences?

  6. Withholding the basis for final agency action because it is a “personnel issue” is ridiculous. Both Warren and the Board have stated explicitly that the issues concerned his performance and interactions with the agency he directed, they’ve taken final action against him on the basis of that information, and it’s clearly of significant interest to the public. From a quick search:

    Farrell v. Village Board of Trustees; Gannett Co. v. County of Monroe; Sinicropi v. County of Nassau; Geneva Printing Co. and Donald C. Hadley v. Village of Lyons; Montes v. State; Powhida v. City of Albany; Scaccia v. NYS Division of State Police; Steinmetz v. Board of Education; and East Moriches, Capital Newspapers v. Burns

    all stand for the proposition that under New York law, where the information sought is regarding a final determination about a public employee’s performance that substantially affects a public agency, the information is not “an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy”, and not subject to the personnel information exemption.

  7. October 28, 2014 at 2:44 pm Steve Bathory responds:

    A great job, Rachel! But this mess is more easily explained as follows:
    Mayor Warren, in her ongoing state of hubris, exercised her prerogative to appoint five of her nearest and dearest to the RHA. Castro is not among her nearest and dearest, so it was only a matter of time before her buddies found a way to get rid of him. Of course, they would replace Castro with McFadden, another intimate of the mayor’s. ( The fact that McFadden has no experience whatsoever in housing is irrelevant; what experience does someone need for a six figure job when the deck has been stacked in your favor from the start? )
    That didn’t concern the mayor in the slightest.
    It was only when Jackie Ortiz started rousing the Hispanic community that the mayor felt the need to demand explanations of her own appointees, if only to distance herself from the negative publicity this latest scandal was creating for her administration.
    It hasn’t worked.
    Unfortunately, nobody’s explanations seemed to mesh with the stories each were telling, which made the mayor’s attempts to correct the situation look like unsuccessful face saving sham.
    Even worse, despite the mayor’s demands, McFadden refused to resign, saying that he would not seek this position permanently.
    How sincere that is should be measured by how gullible most politicians think the general populace is.
    After all, McFadden might be counting on this all blowing over, as has every other blunder made by the mayor this year, largely the result of her office insulating her from the bitter truth and her spokespeople coming up with fictionalized accounts of what went on.
    What is clear is that, like the Sorcerer’s Apprentice, she lost control of the spirits she summoned up and can’t exorcise them.
    I am looking forward to the next episode of “Life With Lovely.”

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