Developer Leaving HANH Board
by Melissa Bailey | Jun 3, 2011 11:36 am
Posted to: Housing
(Updated)Just weeks after becoming a public housing commissioner, real estate developer Michael Schaffer is stepping down due to a conflict of interest.
Schaffer is a top manager at C.A. White, a real estate company that has owned commercial and residential buildings in New Haven for generations and redeveloped the corner of Church and Chapel.
Mayor John DeStefano appointed him in April to serve on the board of commissioners for the Housing Authority of New Haven. After he was sworn in on April 19, he proved to be a quick study, and was taking the reins from outgoing chairman Bob Solomon as the next careful questioner on an otherwise quiet board.
After Schaffer joined the board, he came across a hitch: He learned that it would be a conflict of interest if his family business had any housing units subsidized through the federal Section 8 program.
“I wasn’t aware that we had any Section 8 certificates in any of our buildings. And I wasn’t aware that it was an issue, that there would be a conflict for a commissioner to own a building where there were Section 8 certificates,” Schaffer said Friday.
“It just so happened to come up with a conversation with [HANH attorney] Rolan Young that that would be a conflict. I said, Oh my goodness. Let me go check.” He went back to his office and discovered that the company and its entities did have Section 8 certificates in “a couple of buildings.”
Schaffer said as soon as he made the discovery, he divulged the information to the housing authority.
“I didn’t realize he had Section 8 contacts in his family’s businesses,” DeStefano said, and “he didn’t realize that would be a problem.”
DeStefano said he asked Schaffer to step down to avoid any “appearance of conflict of interest.”
“I don’t want to do anything to compromise myself, the authority or the mayor,” he said. “If this is an issue, then it’s better for me to resign.”
Schaffer formally submitted his resignation in an email to the mayor’s office on May 31. DeStefano accepted the resignation in an email sent on June 1, according to mayoral spokesman Adam Joseph.
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I called this one. When he was appointed I opined that this could/would happen. It was a bad idea, anyone could have foreseen this.
Yeah. Sure. Right. That’s what it was.
Schaffer is leaving the Board because C.A. White has some Section 8 tenants in their well-maintained apartments. (not going to ask how this wasn’t discovered during Schaffer’s vetting, when it’s well-known the family owns hundreds of apartments throughout the city.)
Certainly it wasn’t because an honest businessman rocked the boat by asking real questions about the fat in city contracts, like in this prior Independent story:
“When a two-year $106,000 contract for elevator repairs came before him and the other commissioners, Schaffer wanted to know if the contract included standard servicing and inspections. It did not.”
Schaffer also had questions about a proposal to grant an extension on a loan repayment for Garfield Spencer of the First National Development Company, who’s partnering with HANH to fix up 80 units of Dwight cooperative housing at 150 Edgewood Ave. Spencer did not make his first payment on $89,000 of a pre-development loan, which was due in March. A resolution on HANH’s agenda asked for an extension until September for the project, which will be called Dwight Gardens.
“When we do get to September 30th and we don’t get paid, what do we do?” Schaffer asked HANH’s vice president for special projects, Jimmy Miller.
What a lose for the city and its resident!! To bad this happened. He could of made a difference in a positive way for all.
posted by: streever on June 3, 2011 3:10pm
Wow—some of these comments are pretty chilling. Paul, can we see some follow-up? Can you look into his voting record, follow up on “Yeah Right” and see if some of the contracts that Mr. Schaffer asked questions about were potentially corrupt?
I don’t know Mr. Schaffer, but the comments seem to suggest that he discovered some kick backs and corrupt dealings…. any chance we can get some insight into this?
I have worked with Mr. Schafer and he is a “to the point” kinda guy. I always like that about him, because it eliminated the BS song and dance in out business dealings. I cant help but believe that there is more to this than an oversight with respect to the Section 8 housing certificates….
I do know that the board of commissioners traditionally carried a rubber stamp in their back pocket…maybe he was not a “go with the flow” kind of guy!
I can not think of a better choice for that position than someone with his experience. The idea that he would have to resign is stupid at best.
How could his having Section 8 tenants effect his work?
I help run a local non-profit in New Haven. ... His brother (Tony) runs the residential - they have hundreds of units… The tenant may not have even started out as Section 8 - very common - and good responsible landlords don’t make that tenant move - just because they ‘switch over”. Michael does the Corp (non residential) stuff. ...
This is just another example of John DeStefano not doing his homework. He did this when he wanted to appoint Angelo Reyes to the Board of Commissioners several years ago. Jeez, what does it take to ask questions and verify with the agency that their is no conflict of interest? Even a worker at the Service Center has enough brains to verify something. John, you’re tired. It’s time for you to go.
Really streever? Corruption? Kickbacks? The Spencer deal is a stupid one. Don’t know enough about the elevator deal based on the one-liner in the article but you draw an inference of corruption and kickbacks? ...
posted by: streever on June 6, 2011 11:39am
Sorry if I wasn’t clear! I’m not accusing him of corruption or saying there was any corruption. I am asking Paul if there is any merit to the assertion that he was forced out for other reasons, as someone else alleged.
I have no idea—which is why I put it as a question, not a statement :)
Understandably there could very well be more to his leaving the board, but it is comments like Streever’s that cause educated, smart, hardworking people to avoid leadership positions in public service like the plague. You might accuse the decision makers at hanh of a number of things, but to even willy-nilly suggest corruption and kickbacks, without more, is terribly irresponsible on your part. There is a huge difference between incompetence and criminal behavior. And I am not even sure “yeah right’s” “chilling” comments illustrate incompetence, given that there could be plausible explanations for hanh’s decisions in those matters. I hate to be a streever-troll, but this constant assault on public servants really ticks me off.
Your outrage is well placed. My asking Paul if there is any story behind an allegation he published (per Paul, he only publishes allegations if they are true) and asking him to follow up on the material he published-which alleges that this man was forced off the board for uncovering corruption-will make someone not enter into public service?
I get that you misunderstood my comment, and then, when I explained it continued to willfully misunderstand it. Not sure why Paul let you call me a troll tho.
@ Christopher O;Conner:
All landlords and/or their representatives sign a Housing Assistance Payment (HAP)contract. This is a HUD issued contract that all landlords have to sing in order to receive payments from housing authorities for their Housing Choice Voucher (Section 8) tenants. There is a section that is specifically titled “Conflict of Interest”. The reason why he could not serve on the board is because as a landlord who has a HAP contract with the housing authority, he cannot be directly involved in policy making decisions for that same authority.