George Moses, chair of the Rochester Housing Authority, clearly had one idea of how today's press conference would go. He would read a prepared statement, and then take limited questions on why the RHA board voted to dismiss Alex Castro as the Housing Authority's executive director -- limited because he could not discuss personnel or employment matters, he said.
The media had other ideas, however, and something else, which Moses was apparently not aware existed: a letter from Mayor Lovely Warren, addressed to Moses, demanding an explanation for Castro's discharge.
And that's when the conference took a turn for the ugly.
Castro's abrupt dismissal followed by the immediate, interim appointment of City Council member Adam McFadden to lead the agency has the RHA board under attack from all sides. The Housing Authority's former chair, Carol Schwartz, says that McFadden cannot keep both jobs -- that's it's a conflict of interest barred by the Housing Authority's annual contract with the US Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Attorneys at the press conference said that the conflict provision in the contract does not apply to the Housing Authority's executive director.
HUD officials said yesterday that they're reviewing the matter. And Council member Jackie Ortiz has asked for an investigation into Castro's dismissal, saying that it appears to be inappropriate and misguided.
And then the mayor launched her missile in a letter that every member of the media at the press conference had, but Moses said he had not seen.
Warren wrote that she had been promised an explanation for Castro's removal, but none had been provided.
"I expect to hear back from you today with the reasons why Mr. Castro was let go, otherwise I will have no choice but to further look into the actions of the board, and publicly call for your resignations," Warren's letter says.
Castro's dismissal is related to a pattern of questionable business practices, Moses said. He would not go into detail, but the attorneys present said that an audit is taking place. Moses said that the audit is looking at the Housing Authority's procurement and bidding processes to start.
"We have concerns," he said.
Moses said that McFadden's appointment is temporary, and then a search would take place for a permanent executive director. But no one at the press conference would say how long McFadden's stint would be.
City asked McFadden, who was at the Housing Authority headquarters on West Main Street prior to but not during the press conference, why he'd leave his longtime job as executive director for Quad A for Kids for a temporary post, and he said, "I can't do both."
The Housing Authority board is scheduled to hold its regular meeting on Wednesday, October 22.