From Buffalo News writer Jim Heany's blog post "New boss at BERC." Found at http://blogs.buffalonews.com/outrages_insights/2009/08/what-to-make-of-the-penman-apppointment-at-berc.html
"Penman initially served on the board of the Erie County Industrial Development Agency as a representative of the Buffalo Niagara Partnership, and I suspect that Partnership connection came into play with this BERC appointment.
Penman is a housing developer by trade, but he's no stranger to economic development agencies. He served as ECIDA chairman as Joel Giambra's choice to head the board the final two years of Giambra's term as county executive. Currently, Penman is vice chairman of the Buffalo Urban Development Corp., which operates under the umbrella of the ECIDA and appears, at least from a distance, to be one local development agency that's actually doing a decent job.
...His MJ Peterson was a favorite of Jimmy Griffin and Tony Masiello when they were running the show. Assisted by subsidies from the city, MJ Peterson built 800 to 900 houses and condo and apartment units with a value of upwards of $100 million. It built much of the housing you see scattered around the East Side.
Penman wasn't just a developer, but a real mover and shaker with City Hall back in the day. One housing veteran I spoke to Tuesday described him as "the ultimate insider."
Among other things, Penman helped the city secure $12.8 million federal funds back in late 1990s, and Masiello rewarded him by giving MJ Peterson a big piece of the action to build housing in the Home Ownership Zone. The program, however, turned into such a mess that the feds eventually shut the program down for a year while the city got its act together. There was plenty of blame of pass around, involving both the city and developers, and the problems took some of the sheen off Penman and Company. Their subsequent construction of two houses on contaminated land at the Sycamore Village subdivision and a resulting squabble diminished their stature further.
...Finally, I asked Penman about concerns about conflicts of interest, given all the business he's done in the city over the years."