May 16


Joseph resigns from Roswell board

Embattled CEO of the Clover Group steps down under pressure resulting from filing of lawsuit accusing his company of racist practices.

Michael Joseph — whose company, the Clover Group, was accused last week of  “racist and illegal housing discrimination practices” — has resigned as chair of Roswell Park Cancer Institute.

A spokesperson for Gov. Kathy Hochul, who appoints seven of Roswell’s 15 board members — including the chair — sent Investigative Post a statement Tuesday evening announcing Joseph’s resignation.

“Governor Hochul is committed to making Roswell Park a more equitable and inclusive institution for employees, patients and families,” the statement reads. 

“The Governor has accepted Michael Joseph’s resignation from the Board of Directors and named Leecia Eve as Interim Chair.”

Joseph, 64, was appointed to Roswell’s board by then Gov. David Paterson in 2010, according to Roswell’s annual reports. Eve has served on Roswell’s board since 2018.

Roswell has faced a slew of lawsuits alleging race and gender discrimination in the workplace during his long tenure there. Last summer five members of Roswell’s board rebelled against the response to those complaints by the cancer center’s leadership, including Joseph.

Eve was one of those five dissident board members.

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A week ago Monday a former Clover employee, Peter Rizzo, filed a civil lawsuit in federal court alleging that Joseph’s company used racial demographics when choosing potential sites for developing senior housing complexes. 

The lawsuit describes Clover executives using the terms “Canadians” and “the Canadian factor” as a code for discussing the number of Black people living in proximity to proposed development sites. A surrounding population of more that 20 percent Black was sufficient cause for Clover to reject the site, the lawsuit claims.

Rizzo surreptitiously recorded Clover executives using the coded language, acknowledging its meaning, and explaining that building in communities the executives considered “heavily Black” was “tough” because there might be an “issue with residents paying their rent.”

Investigative Post published the recordings after the lawsuit was filed, followed by a profile of Joseph’s involvement in politics and civic organizations and a report on the millions in taxpayer subsidies that helped Clover grow into one of the region’s largest real estate development and management firms.

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Earlier today, Investigative Post reported that Joseph is registered to vote in Florida, calling into question his eligibility to serve on the board of Roswell, a state public benefit corporation. Board members on state entities such as Roswell are required to be New York residents.

Joseph has been a prolific donor to Democrats and has close ties to Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz. He and his wife have also contributed $62,475 to Hochul’s campaigns over the years.

Last Thursday, Investigative Post reported that Republican members of the Erie County Legislature submitted a resolution demanding Joseph  be suspended from the boards of Roswell and the AKG Art Museum, formerly known as the Albright Knox Art Gallery. 

Democratic legislators voted down that resolution and instead passed another that called on Clover to fire executives responsible for those practices, without directing sanctions at Joseph individually. Both resolutions called for an independent investigation into the company’s practices.

Rizzo’s lawsuit alleges that Clover Group companies and its executives:

  • “intentionally engaged in illegal race-based housing discrimination by refusing to develop housing in or near Black neighborhoods.”
  • commented “on the number of ‘Canadians’ or ‘shvartzes’ (a Yiddish racial slur)” living near a potential building site.
  • were warned that their use of racial demographics as a site-selection parameter might violate the federal Fair Housing Act.
  • fired, Rizzo, the whistleblower, “in a blatant and illegal act of retaliation” after he refused to participate in the company’s “illegal race-based housing discrimination.”

Rizzo was dismissed in late January after six months with the company. Clover told him he was being let go because the company was having financial trouble. Rizzo claims he was fired because he objected to Clover’s racial profiling of development sites.

The lawsuit asks the court to affirm Rizzo’s contention that Clover’s practices violate federal and state law. Rizzo also asks for $15 million for back and future pay lost, as well as “pain and suffering and punitive damages.”

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