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Four CAO board members abruptly fired, met with armed guards

Mike Desmond

The website of the Community Action Organization says of board meetings, "the public is always welcome to attend these meetings." However, Monday night, three armed guards barred anyone who was not on a list to enter.

The CAO has been undergoing an internal convulsion since a board majority voted to fire CEO Nathan Hare and call in a forensic accountant. Four board members were fired by Hodgson Russ lawyer Adam Perry, a confidant of Mayor Byron Brown.

Four of the directors were outside the CAO office Monday night and were barred from the board meeting. Former board member Doris Cummings-Ford said she received a letter from Perry saying she was off the board, with no indication why.

Cummings-Ford says she voted to fire Hare and was on the board as a representative of low-income citizens.

Credit Mike Desmond / WBFO News
Doris Cummings-Ford arrived at the community only to find she was barred from entering.

"I was appointed by the community," she said. "I had to get the statements from the low-income that I was needed on the board."

The agency spends around $50 million a year, most from various governments.

The four members kept out of the meeting were accompanied by lawyer Jennifer Friedman, who said she was shocked the members were barred. In a written statement, Friedman said the forensic audit has apparently been canceled. She called the closed meeting a "deeply concerning" lack of transparency.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.