BUFFALO, N.Y. - It turns out, the Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority is paying an outside firm to handle all public relations.
The news comes a few weeks after the executive director told Investigative Post's Dan Telvock that they were not paying a consultant to answer questions.
Investigative Post filed a request under the state Freedom of Information Law on April 29 seeking a copy of the BMHA contract with Eric Mower and Associates and copies of bills and payments. The only response they have received is a May 3 email saying the authority needed at least 20 more days to search for the records.
In the meantime, the housing authority provided bills and payment history to the Buffalo News, which filed a FOI request several months ago. The News published a story based on those records in Monday's edition.
Telvock called the authority's lawyer, David Rodriguez, Monday morning to get an update on Investigative Post's FOI request.
"I called the housing authority counsel and asked him why the Buffalo News had the information but I did not," said Telvock. "He told me I should call the Buffalo News reporter. I then asked - if they have it, why am I still waiting for the information? He then hung up the phone."
Can the authority pick and choose who it releases info to? We called the state Committee on Open Government, the experts on these matters.
Camille Jobin-Davis, the state Committee on Open Government assistant director, said an agency cannot delay releasing public records that are readily available.
According to the Buffalo News, here are details of the BMHA's deal with Eric Mower & Associates:
· Sanders-Garrett handed the public relations firm a no-bid contract in the fall of 2011 without running it past her board for approval.
· Eric Mower has been paid $90,218 since then to do everything from write routine press releases to respond to reporter inquiries.
· The firm's hourly rates rates range from $125 to $325 per hour.
Investigative Post/ Buffalo News