Niagara Falls Housing Authority Director Clifford Scott placed on leave

Mar. 3—Niagara Falls Housing Authority Executive Director Clifford Scott has been placed on leave pending a meeting scheduled for Monday with members of the public agency's Board of Commissioners.

The Niagara Gazette learned Friday that Scott has been on leave since Feb. 21 and that Deputy Executive Director Angela Smith is currently overseeing the operations of the agency in charge of public housing in the Falls.

In a statement issued in response to questions from the newspaper, Scott acknowledged that he is scheduled to meet with members of the board commissioners next week to discuss a variety of issues.

The board has called a special meeting for 4 p.m. Monday at the authority's main offices, 744 10th St.

"The meeting will allow me to outline my plans regarding improving communications throughout the agency, fostering more accountability with our workforce and for me as the executive director to receive feedback from the board on a better governance structure and environment," Scott said. "I am looking forward to the discussion."

Smith, the authority's deputy executive director, and members of the authority's Board of Commissioners did not immediately respond to requests for comment from the newspaper.

Reached by telephone on Friday, Maralynn Giancola, vice president of the housing authority's board, declined comment.

"I can't discuss any of it," she said.

The housing authority hired Scott in 2019 when he signed a three-year contract with a salary of $115,000 per year. He replaced long-time employee Patricia Barone who retired after 32 years of service to the authority. Barone served as the authority's deputy executive director for 18 years and became acting and interim executive director for the remaining three years of her career following the retirement of long-time executive Stephanie Cowart.

Scott was a standout high school athlete at Grand Island before becoming the starting quarterback for the University at Buffalo Bulls from 1991 to 1994. After college, he became director of New York state's Housing Choice program and later served as executive director for several housing authorities, including authorities in Youngstown, Ohio and Atlantic City.

In 2020, the City of Niagara Falls entered into a shared services agreement with the housing authority that has allowed Scott to provide "administrative oversight" to the city's community development department.

Under the agreement, the city agreed to pay the housing authority $5,000 per month for Scott's services. The city also agreed, beginning on Jan. 1, 2021, to make a $60,000 lump sum payment to the authority each year through Dec. 31, 2023. Scott was to work in concert with and report to City Administrator Anthony Restaino under the terms of the deal.

City officials said the agreement, which essentially eliminated the position of director of community development, was expected to save the city $14,769 annually.

City Administrator Anthony Restaino said Friday that Scott is continuing to serve in his capacity as administrator of the city's Community Development Department.

"We are aware of his placement on leave by NFHA and have no comment as it is an NFHA matter," Restaino said.