NRP Properties, a developer based in Cleveland, Ohio, had planned a $12 million affordable housing project on Buffalo’s east side. This project became a legal battle when NRP Properties filed a lawsuit, alleging that Mayor Byron Brown and others were engaged in “pay-to-play”. A federal judge recently dismissed this suit on the grounds that Mayor Brown is protected under legislative immunity. WGRZ’s Claudine Ewing interviewed attorney Barry Covert about the case. The full story is available on the WGRZ website.
Legislators have immunity
Mr. Covert told WGRZ that “there’s an old English common law rule that applies to all levels of legislatures, whether it’s local, state, or federal, that says that legislators have immunity.” Because of this law, he explained, Mayor Brown “civilly, he really is untouchable when he engages in legislative acts.”
Compelling evidence for pay-to-play
WGRZ reports that, according to court documents, Mayor Brown wanted Reverend Richard Stenhouse to play some role in the development. Mr. Covert explained that NRP has “got some pretty compelling evidence that this was pay-to-play. The mayor claims he was disenfranchised. He didn’t like the proposal that was going to go forward.” Mr. Covert went on to say that the Mayor no longer thought it was a good idea to build the housing “because it was not all in one area that was going to be developed.”
WGRZ asked Mr. Covert if the dismissal of this lawsuit would give people the perception that those in power are above the law. “This isn’t just a perception,” Mr. Covert answered. “This is a reality.”
About Barry N. Covert
Mr. Covert is a senior partner in Lipsitz Green Scime Cambria’s Criminal Defense Trials and Appeals Practice Area. He is known for his aggressive representation of clients in the areas of New York State and federal criminal trials and appeals; driving while intoxicated; constitutional law, including First Amendment, civil rights actions, and federal False Claims Act; defending against allegations of scientific misconduct and fraud, research misconduct and fraud, plagiarism, and fabrication of evidence; and professional licensing defense. Mr. Covert frequently provides legal analysis for WGRZ and other media outlets.