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Saturday, April 14, 2018

Wade Goria: Please Stop The Grade-Fixing

We are getting many 3020-a cases where a tenured teacher or Guidance Counselor is charged with grade-changing, falsifying grades, not complying with Department policies, and similar such stuff. This theme is the flavor of the 2017-2018 school year, it seems.

If a student genuinely needs extra credit due to circumstances particular to him/her, then, of course, we support the teacher working with the student on credit recovery, extra homework, etc. All kids need a chance to succeed. But few students (there are special circumstances, IEPs, etc.) need to be socially promoted to graduation if there has been no effort or attendance.

If you are told to change the grades of your failing students, and you feel that the request is improper, then read further.

The department is trying its' best to shove great teachers under the bus, and we understand that game: put the blame on the teacher/Assistant Principal before someone blames the principal or goes to the media. Principals are always immune to prosecution, so the best thing that a teacher/AP can do when a Principal calls him/her into the main office and tells the person to change the grade on a Transcript Update Form or on something else, say "let me take this and I will get it back to you".  Go to your computer immediately, and write up the meeting, send the transcript update form to your UFT rep and the Superintendent with your reasons why this is improper. Ask for assistance in what to do. Stop the principal from cleaning his/her wheels with your career.

If you are charged with 3020-a specifications which charge you with any of the above, contact us. We got this.

Betsy Combier
betsy.combier@gmail.com
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Wade Goria is a former teacher and whistleblower at John Dewey HS in Brooklyn -- and he's still
pushing for the scandalized city school system to clean up its act.


Dear Mr. Chancellor, please stop the grade-fixing in NYC schools
NY POST, April 14, 2018

Five years ago, teacher WADE R. GORIA exposed a massive grade-fixing scheme at John Dewey HS in Gravesend, Brooklyn, along with his colleague Michael P. Klimetz. Their revelations led to a state audit, released last month, that confirmed the shocking truth: School leaders had committed wholesale fraud — and cheated students out of the education the city was required, by law, to provide. Here, in an open letter, Goria says how grade-fixing fraud is still widespread throughout the system and asks the new schools chancellor, Richard Carranza, to stop the rot . . .
A cancer has metastasized in NYC’s school system. It was deliberately planted by your predecessor, Carmen Fariña, with the sanction of the mayor, the State Education Department and the United Federation of Teachers.
In the face of Mayor de Blasio’s ambitious demands for dramatic increases in graduation rates, Fariña and her superintendents found a reliable means of achieving success: grade-fixing. John Dewey HS students sardonically called it “Easy Pass” amid a nightmarish flurry of corrupt practices that I witnessed as a social-studies teacher during the tenure of Principal Kathleen Elvin from 2012 to 2015. She came to Dewey as part of the mayor’s Renewal program for struggling schools.
Elvin’s creation of “Project Graduation” involved many schemes. Elvin created bogus titles such as “College Explorations” to give students a way to accumulate credits for courses they had failed or lacked. Many sham “credit recovery” courses covered a dozen or more academic subjects — math, science, English, Spanish, you name it — supposedly taught concurrently by a lone teacher who had no certification in most of the subjects. One rookie teacher was listed as having taught a total of 52 classes in all academic disciplines in a single semester. Little or no actual teaching went on. Most students didn’t even attend. Elvin’s assistant principals strong-armed teachers into giving passing grades. If they refused, the assistant principals and guidance counselors entered the data system and passed the kids anyway.
Elvin retaliated against unwilling teachers with endless disciplinary hearings. She and her assistant principals stormed into classrooms to do teacher observations guaranteed to slap them with the lowest rating: “ineffective.” After Michael P. Klimetz, a revered science teacher, refused to grade students in subjects he didn’t teach, he was moved to another room without lab equipment.
Our union failed us. The UFT chapter chair in all NYC public schools is required to review each teacher’s program to ensure compliance with the contract. Had this been done, the rug would have been pulled out from Elvin’s scam. The UFT’s Brooklyn representative was fully aware of the violations but failed to address our pleas for protection.


[Editor’s note: The UFT said Friday it gave “full support” to teachers who exposed the “principal’s destructive practices.”]
Michael and I reported Elvin’s massive fraud to Brooklyn Superintendent Michael Prayor, the Department of Education’s Office of Special Investigations, the Special Commissioner of Investigation and members of the state Board of Regents. We naïvely assumed the system would intervene and halt these unconscionable practices.
More than 1¹/₂ years later, on June 30, 2015, the OSI finally issued a scathing report. But it detailed just some of the fraud and named only Elvin and two assistant principals, though most of the assistant principals and guidance counselors took part. A week later, Elvin was removed from Dewey amid intense media coverage. Yet, as we would learn a year later, it was all a charade. We believe Fariña never intended to hold Elvin accountable.
It took the state Education Department five years from the time they were first alerted about this outrageous scandal to issue an audit on March 25, finding that thousands of improper credits were awarded to Dewey students. But the audit gave no explanation of how the scam was carried out. It was like confirming a murder without describing how the victim was killed or who committed the crime.
The Board of Regents has yet to hold any guilty parties accountable by revoking their licenses or certifications, or by levying fines. This stands in stark contrast to the handling of a major cheating scandal in Atlanta 10 years ago, when prison sentences were meted out to corrupt educators. More recently, the Washington, DC, school system issued a swift and far more thorough report following media reports that Ballou HS had fixed grades and graduated students whose low attendance failed to meet requirements.
A once vaunted and proud institution, Dewey now boasts an 80 percent graduation rate, but last year 48 percent of the grads didn’t have test scores high enough to enroll in CUNY without remediation. Several assistant principals and other staffers who conspired with Elvin still work at the school. Elvin was awarded a post at the DOE’s Tweed headquarters and now collects $170,000 a year in the Office of Safety and Youth Development.
Chancellor Carranza, at the outset of your tenure, you are faced with a choice: You can stop the spread of the grade-fixing contagion by finally applying consequences for criminal fraud, or you can let the DOE further descend into self-serving degeneracy.
Wade R. Goria taught social studies for 20 years at John Dewey HS, retiring in 2015 after Principal Kathleen Elvin’s ouster. He also taught international relations at NYU for 18 years. He earned a master’s degree at Oxford University and authored the book“Sovereignty and Leadership in Lebanon, 1943-1976.”
Kathleen Elvin (picture by Gregory Mango)

Grade-fixing ex-principal lands $157K job as DOE administrator
by Sue Edelman, May 14, 2016 

The city will not appeal a decision to dismiss cheating charges against former Dewey HS Principal Kathleen Elvin, and will keep her on as a six-figure administrator, officials told The Post.
An internal probe had found that Elvin and her assistant principals at the Gravesend, Brooklyn, high school ran a grade-fixing scheme called “Project Graduation.” Hundreds of students — who dubbed it “Easy Pass” — got credits for sham classes with no instruction.
But Jay Nadelbach, a hearing officer assigned to conduct Elvin’s administrative trial, last month dismissed misconduct charges after the Department of Education failed to turn over records revealing it later approved all the credits. Nadelbach ordered Elvin, ousted in July 2015, “reinstated” and awarded back pay.
The city had 10 days to appeal the dismissal in court. “We did not appeal,” a city Law Department spokesman said.
Instead, Elvin “will be assigned to a position as a DOE administrator in a central office,” officials said. Her salary: $157,040.
“Ms. Elvin will not be placed in a school,” said DOE spokeswoman Devora Kaye.
Officials would not explain why they didn’t fight to uphold the charges against Elvin, but a court appeal would have cast light on a major cheating scandal at a time when Mayor de Blasio is seeking extension of mayoral control of schools.
Dewey teachers who exposed the fraud aren’t surprised at Elvin’s victory.
“It completely substantiates the lack of sincerity in their ostensible effort to terminate her,” said retired social-studies teacher Wade Goria. “They never had any intention to fire her in the first place.”
The DOE probe found Elvin led a scheme in which students lacking credits in all subjects were listed on class rosters and given “packets” of work but got no instruction by certified teachers, as required by state law.
Whistleblowers believe Elvin planned to contend at trial that her actions were sanctioned by higher-ups, including Chancellor Carmen Fariña.
“Elvin would spill the beans on a system-wide policy,” another Dewey teacher said.
When the charges were tossed, Elvin said she was a victim of “character assassination” and the case was based on “misrepresentations, half-truths and misinformation.”
“It completely substantiates the lack of sincerity in their ostensible effort to terminate her,” said retired social-studies teacher Wade Goria. “They never had any intention to fire her in the first place.”
The DOE probe found Elvin led a scheme in which students lacking credits in all subjects were listed on class rosters and given “packets” of work but got no instruction by certified teachers, as required by state law.
Whistleblowers believe Elvin planned to contend at trial that her actions were sanctioned by higher-ups, including Chancellor Carmen Fariña.
“Elvin would spill the beans on a system-wide policy,” another Dewey teacher said.
When the charges were tossed, Elvin said she was a victim of “character assassination” and the case was based on “misrepresentations, half-truths and misinformation.”
CSA General Counsel David Grandwetter, Kathleen Elvin, Former CSA President Ernest Logan, Bon Reich
wnyc.org, Schoolbook, · by Yasmeen Khan
An arbitrator ruled to dismiss all disciplinary charges against Kathleen Elvin, the former principal of John Dewey High School in Brooklyn, who was removed from her position on charges that she ran a sub-standard credit recovery program. 
On Wednesday, Elvin expressed relief at the ruling. She said the allegations, her removal as principal and the media coverage of the issue amounted to a "character assassination." 
This was the latest twist in a story dating back at least to last school year when investigators looked into teachers' complaints that even students who did little work and had low attendance rates passed courses designed to help them accrue credits required for graduation. 
The arbitrator, Jay Nadelbach, wrote in his ruling that city education officials validated the credit recovery program when it certified the credits received by students, thereby allowing students to graduate. 
"If all the course credits were accepted and validated," wrote Nadelbach, "how can the Respondent be charged with misconduct for allegedly administering substandard courses?"
The union representing public school principals, the Council of School Supervisors and Administrators, applauded the ruling, and called the Wednesday press conference with Elvin.
"It was very difficult to actually read about myself and not recognize that person they were describing in print, because virtually none of it was true or accurate or clear in communicating what had gone on in the school," Elvin said. 
After she was removed from John Dewey in July she was suspended without pay. In March, she returned to the payroll, following an earlier ruling by the arbitrator. The most recent decision entitled Elvin to full back pay and reinstatement as a principal.  
"We are disappointed with this decision, and we are continuing to review our options," said Devora Kaye, a Department of Education spokeswoman, in a statement on Wednesday.
City education officials, according to a summary in the arbitrator's ruling, called the motion to dismiss disciplinary charges "premature and inappropriate." Instead, they wanted a full hearing to terminate Elvin's employment. 

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Betsy Combier Unravels 3020-a Arbitration in New York City


Lawline
Betsy Combier 
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For fourteen years I have been researching the 3020-a Arbitration charging process used in New York City, and in particular the omission of a vote in Executive Session by the New York City Panel For Educational Policy which is mandated by Education Law 3020-a(2)(a). I ignored the verbal attacks by attorneys who chose to threaten me with doom if I continued to ask for the vote - and I went to both NYSUT and Department of Education Attorneys working on 3020-a cases.
Betsy Combier

  I have never received a rational response to "Betsy's Motion", until Judge Green stepped into the fray. On March 29, 2018, Judge Green in Richmond County Supreme Court granted the petition of Rosalie Cardinale wherein we argued that her right to a fair 3020-a hearing was denied by an unlawful determination of probable cause. Ergo, my argument that the 3020-a process in New York City has a lawless charging procedure.

What does that mean? What you want it to.
           
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Betsy Combier
ADVOCATZ
betsy.combier@gmail.com
917-596-1762

UPDATE April 7, 2018:

On April 5, 2018, a recently terminated teacher who used NYSUT for her 3020-a Arbitration, sent me the following email from /to her NYSUT Attorney:

"Date: April 5, 2018 at 12:23:45 PM EDT

"I spoke to a lawyer about the Staten Island decision and he had a warning shot for the UFT. I am not sure why i would have to hire a private lawyer to have my case revisited when the UFT has a duty to all terminated tenured teachers that can’t be brushed away in light of this decision.  The Uft opens itself up to personal liability if it fails to take action - such as intervening in the Staten Island case or bringing its own case against the DOE that is appropriate to protect the collective bargaining rights of tenured teachers who were improperly termination under the Staten Island decision. The UFT would be making a seriously unwise strategic decision if it were to do nothing simply because there are competing lower court decisions on the issue.  The UFT’s liability would be subject to appellate decision(s) that are unpredictable.  My case was never presented to the PEP and I would appreciate knowing how the Union intends to help people in my position in light of this decision.
Please advise."

The NYSUT attorney responded:

"I have now read the entire decision and the content of the Post article and any advice you are receiving which is the basis of your e-mail is misleading.

The Judge in the Staten island case did not rule that all 3020a cases have to be voted upon by the PEP in order to be validly brought. In fact, the Judge accepted the reasoning of other courts that the Chancellor (Farina) can delegate the authority to find probable cause and bring charges to Superintendents who can then delegate that authority to principals. What the Judge found was that in this case the DOE/ NYC Corporation Counsel failed to provide him with proof of such written delegations of authority.

The case you cite to is just the result of poor lawyering on the part of the DOE's counsel in the matter. The Delegation letters in question exist and my office has copies of those letters. When Chancellor Farina was installed we demanded copies of such letters from the DOE in order to ensure that the law was being respected/followed and that all cases were being properly brought. As a result, this office is satisfied that the law is being followed and that findings of probable cause underlying 3020a charges are being properly made.

I understand your frustration and anger. However, this decision is not a basis to challenge any 3020a result."

Hmmmm. First, I don't believe that Judge Green wrote that he 'accepted' that "Chancellor (Farina) can delegate the authority to find probable cause, and all the NYC DOE has to do is get the paper saying that the Chancellor delegates "...authority to [do anything]" and boom, probable cause is determined? That's just plain unfair and unjust.


I of course have the backstory on the "Delegation" statements by signed by Chancellors Klein, Black, Walcott, and Farina, submitted to countless arbitrators. They are worthless. Yep, that's what I have said, what I am saying, and what I will say, and I can prove it. In my work, I know that there is always a DOE Attorney and/or a NYSUT Attorney who will gladly say that I'm wrong, I don't know anything, I am not an Attorney, etc (I'm NOT an attorney, so that part is good), so I have spent 10 years coming up with facts and research to back up what I say and write.


How does the decision of Judge Green affect tenured teachers who have been given an unfair 3020-a decision in New York City?



We dont really know yet. What we do know is that we are ready to assist any DOE employee who has been charged with 3020-a in New York City (or New York State). We believe that every case is unique, and therefore we need to look at the circumstances in each case very carefully. Teacher trials are serious events.
As the paralegal for Attorney Jonathan Behrins in the Article 75 Appeal of Rosalie Cardinale, a teacher in Staten Island, we are saying that due to the Department' s desire for speed above rights, no vote in Executive Session took place at the Panel For Educational Policy, and therefore no arbitrator has subject matter jurisdiction and cannot hear evidence or decide on penalty. Our win in Staten Island for Rosalie changes the landscape of tenure rights and 3020-a, big time.

Jonathan and I have been working together on 3020-a hearings for more than two years (I have worked on about 58 cases over the past 7 years as an independent consultant/paralegal for several attorneys, except I no longer work with Attorneys Bryan Glass or Jordan Harlow, who would not agree with the premise and purpose of my Motion). We believe that Ms. Cardinale's termination at 3020-a arbitration in New York City was not rational, and Arbitrator Michael Lendino lawlessly took on the case (at $1400/day) despite our submission of "Betsy's Motion" to Dismiss For Lack of Subject Matter Jurisdiction, now cited by Staten island by Judge Green.


Jonathan Behrins
The NY POST got the story first:
DOE took illegal steps to fire tenured teacher: judge
Selim Algar, NY POST, April 3, 2018

City teachers facing termination have been thrown a legal life preserver.

In a precedent-setting decision, a Staten Island judge ruled last week that the Department of Education took illegal shortcuts in firing a tenured teacher.

Judge Desmond Green said that a termination hearing can take place only after a vote by the Panel for Educational Policy establishes probable cause.

Green said the DOE ignored that requirement in canning Rosalie Cardinale and ordered her reinstated.

Longtime advocate Betsy Combier, who worked on Cardinale’s case, said the DOE has ignored the law for more than a decade — and thinks Green’s ruling sets a precedent to challenge other firings.

“This is huge,” she said. “This is a protection we are supposed to be giving tenured teachers. For all these years, they have not gotten it. It’s not right.”

Neglecting the probable- cause vote “violates Petitioner’s due-process rights and violates New York’s strong public policy protecting the integrity of the tenure system,” Green wrote in his decision.

Cardinale’s lawyer, Jonathan Behrins, said the DOE purposefully avoids the PEP vote because it exposes dubious terminations to more scrutiny.

A city Law Department spokesman defended Cardinale’s firing.

“We believe DOE’s determination was appropriate and lawful,” said spokesman Nick Paolucci.
**************************
For 14 years as a teacher advocate in New York, my focus has been assisting educators with problems concerning their workplace, and/or, if they were tenured, researching the backstory of 3020-a charges served on them in the rubber room or reassignment.

In New York City, I knew that the controlling Law for 3020-a arbitration is Education Law 3020-a. It says so in the charging papers. But Ed Law 3020-a (2)(a) says that there must be an Executive Session and a vote by the school board (in NYC the "PEP") on probable cause for the charges before the charges are served. In NYC, this Executive Session never takes place and there is no date in the charging papers for this meeting and vote.

For many years teachers charged with 3020-a Specifications received the 3020-a charges ("Specifications") with APPENDIX A in the packet. I asked NYSUT and the DOE why this was sent out to all tenured charged educators if there was no compliance in NYC, and the answer was always, "that's the way it is".

I used to attend PEP meetings and spoke about the "Executive Session" being held before the public meeting began, which is a violation of Open Meetings Law #105.  I collected Agendas with this violation of Open Meetings Law from 2006-2013, and continuously asked 
why all the PEP members since I started attending the meetings have violated Open Meetings Law...why weren't they held accountable? I also spoke about my dismay that the charging process for teacher tenure hearings was a violation of the tenure law, in my non-attorney opinion. Please make note of the fact that I know some members personally, and have NO gripe against anyone personally, only as an official member of the PEP, where all New York State Laws are to be complied with.

When speaking at PEP meetings I carefully tried my best to take less than 2 minutes, leaving 45-50 seconds for former NYC schools Chancellor Joel Klein to give me an answer. He rolled his eyes, sometimes looked at DOE General Counsel Mike Best with his "there she goes again" look and took 10 seconds to tell me " your time is up, Ms. Combier, next speaker please" and 10 seconds for me to say "...but you didnt answer my question..."

I did not attend PEP meetings since then because they are useless, except for the PEP meeting on Feb 28 2018, where the two schools I was helping, MS 53 and PS/MS 42, were allowed to continue, open and free.

I have been writing about the PEP and teacher tenure on my blogs and websites since 2007, and I have submitted these issues to the DOE Attorneys as well as the Attorneys I work with and NYSUT, for at least that long, if not longer (I started working with teachers in 2003). I now assist at 3020-a as a member of the legal team (Im not an attorney). An educator charged with 3020-a does not need an Attorney in arbitration, but if anyone goes Pro Se, I highly recommend an assistant to help with the process. I do that, but I most often work with attorneys.

In 2003 I started asking all of the Attorneys I knew why there was no compliance with this section of Ed Law 3020-a. The answer I received always was, "...because that's the way it is", or "Don't worry about it". But I did worry about it, and when I began working on 3020-a hearings as an assistant to teachers who wanted to be pro se (without an attorney) or who wanted me and a private attorney to be the legal team, we always presented a Motion To Dismiss on the issue that if there was no vote on probable cause, then the arbitrator had no authority to proceed to a decision, and any decision was invalid.

We were denied on our Motion in the Supreme Court until Judge Desmond Green saw it differently:

“The DOE’s failure to make a finding of probable cause and adhere to the procedural protections guaranteed to Petitioner in Education Law § 3020-a violates Petitioner’s due process rights and violates New York’s strong public policy protecting the integrity of the tenure system.”

It appears that this decision unravels the 3020-a panels and nullifies the decisions made by any arbitrator who refused to grant the Motion To Dismiss on the basis of a lawless determination of probable cause signed by a Principal or Superintendent. There is no rule, law, or memo that specifically gives either Principals or Superintendents the authority to sign that paper, NOTICE OF DETERMINATION OF PROBABLE CAUSE.

I am writing a book about my experiences in 3020-a hearings after I brought up this issue.

The Department Attorneys have submitted responses, or Opposition to the Motion To Dismiss that range from the boring to the funny and ridiculous. One theme always appears: the Chancellor has the right to charge anyone, and can delegate this authority to anyone.

Again, I am not an attorney, but preferring, or serving, charges on tenured educators is not the same as determining "probable cause". My final answer.

Monday, April 2, 2018

UFT: Getting Tenure

ADVOCATZ believes in tenure.

For the past 15 years we have been researching case law and attending as well as assisting at teacher tenure hearings (3020-a Arbitration), and we offer below some guidelines from the UFT on how to get tenure.

We recommend that each and every observation, email, meeting, letter, or notes given to you or sent to you be rebutted/responded to. We suggest that you carefully and honestly state facts, and drop incendiary items such as large type, insults, the use of derogatory terms, etc.

We can help you with that, just contact us at betsy@advocatz.com.

Grieve any harassment (Article 23), grieve U-ratings and Appeal any false APPR ratings. Don't be fearful of asserting your rights, these are stepping stones which must be done in order to defend your position later on.

When you get into a hearing, dont sit back and let your representative do whatever they want, partner with your representative, and make sure that they do what you want. You have the facts of the matter, you count. Don't be silent, but say what you want to say professionally.

What does that mean? Contact us.

Betsy Combier

All you need to know about getting tenure

Gaining tenure is an important milestone for new teachers. Having tenure means you can’t be terminated without due process and you’re entitled to a hearing if the Department of Education takes disciplinary action that could lead to termination.
Teachers hired before July 1, 2015, generally serve a three-year probationary period. Teachers hired after July 1, 2015, are generally eligible for tenure at the end of their fourth year.
There are two ways to reduce your probationary period. If you worked as a regular substitute in the same license and at the same school level, you can reduce the normal probationary period by up to two years. This is called Jarema Credit, and you should apply if you think you are eligible. The application form is online. Another way to reduce your probationary period is called “traveling tenure.” If you received tenure in one license area and elect to take an appointment in a new license area or if you were tenured in another school district in New York State, you should apply to have your probationary period reduced by one year.
If you think you are eligible for either of these options, or have any questions, contact your UFT borough office.
There are many steps you can take to prepare for your tenure decision. First and foremost, you need to know your tenure date. To find it, check with your payroll secretary. You’ll want to be proactive in meeting with your principal in advance of your tenure decision to review your work.
In New York City, tenure is granted in your license appointment area, which is why it is of utmost importance that your license code match the subject and level in which you are teaching.
Tenure isn’t automatically granted at the end of your probationary period. To be granted tenure, you must:
  • Be on track to complete all your state certification and city licensing requirements, file an application and receive professional certification;
  • have a record of acceptable service during your probationary period; and
  • be recommended for tenure by your principal.
Your tenure becomes permanent only after you complete all your certification requirements.
In preparing for tenure, you’ll want to keep records and documents that reflect on your performance, such as observation reports; notes or emails to and from your colleagues, mentor, supervisors and parents; and evidence of your professional contributions to your school. Add a brief explanation or context for each piece of evidence you include and be sure to show how you differentiate to accommodate children with diverse abilities.
If applicable, you can document the work you’ve done for your school community, such as clubs or student groups you advise or activities in which you’ve participated.
There are many ways you can organize this information. Some teachers choose to build tenure portfolios using binders organized into subsections where they store lesson plans, student work and assessments, observation reports, certificates from professional learning activities and other records.
Other teachers recommend digital record-keeping, using online resources to organize files. Dropbox, Google Drive or iCloud are all services you can use to store your work.
If you are up for tenure and your principal asks you to agree to extend your probationary period, you should contact your chapter leader or a UFT representative to help ensure that your rights are protected.
The UFT offers tenure workshops in its borough offices. Check the UFT website’s events calendar for details.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Disarray at the NYC Department of Investigation and at Squad 11/DOE, Formerly Special Commissioner of Investigation (SCI)

Re-posted from NYC Public Voice March 31, 2018

Mark Peters, NYC's Commissioner For the Department of Investigation, Fires Anastasia Coleman, Special Commissioner of Investigation (SCI)

There is disarray at the New York City SCI Office,  now called "Squad 11/DOE", that's for sure.  Commissioner Anastasia Coleman was fired on March 28 2018 by Department of Investigation Chief Mark Peters. We already know about the OSI mess with Wei Liu. As active researchers into 3020-a arbitration and  State and Federal Court cases, for now 15 years, we have evidence of the  corruption within the organizations set up to investigate corruption, namely OEO, OSI, and SCI. It's not pretty.

SCI was set up by Executive Order 11, after James Gill, father to former DOI Chief Rose Gill Hearn, issued his "Gill Commission Report" as well as "Investigating the Investigators" (May 26, 2014):

The Gill Commission Report (1990) and the Denial of Due Process Rights By the "Investigators" in the Special Commissioner of Investigation (SCI) Office


How this will all iron out is unknown at this point, but I would love to have a one-to-one chat with Ms. Coleman! Is there a coverup of someone or something?

Just askin'.

Betsy Combier
betsy.combier@gmail.com

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Mark Peters

Seeking Control, Investigation Chief Fires Schools’ Special Commissioner
The commissioner of New York City’s Department of Investigation, who recently tried to seize control of the agency that polices corruption in the school system, has taken another step in asserting his power, firing the new head of the schools investigation office less than two months into her tenure.

The office, known as the special commissioner of investigation for the New York City School District, investigates allegations of corruption, criminal activity, conflicts of interest and unethical conduct in the 1.1 million-student school system. Though it reports to the investigations department, the agency has largely operated independently since its inception in 1990.

But the investigations commissioner, Mark G. Peters, sought to change that last month, saying the schools office was under his authority. Mr. Peters has also subsumed three other offices into the Department of Investigation: the inspectors general for the New York Police Department, the School Construction Authority and the Health and Hospitals Corporation.

Mr. Peters last month appointed Anastasia Coleman, a former senior assistant district attorney in Brooklyn, to take over the schools investigation office from Special Commissioner Richard J. Condon, who retired late last year. She objected to Mr. Peters’s efforts to restructure the office and eliminate its independence, and had told him and his senior staff that she believed his efforts violated the law, based on the municipal documents that created the office, according to memos, emails and other documents.

On Wednesday, Mr. Peters fired her during a brief meeting, at which he was accompanied by five senior staff members. She was escorted to her office and then out of the building by one of the agency’s armed officers, people briefed on the matter said. He later demoted her top deputy.

On Thursday, Mr. Peters announced her removal to her staff of roughly 60 lawyers, investigators and other employees in a conference room at the special commissioner’s offices. The meeting lasted less than two minutes.

Mr. Peters spoke for less than a minute, according to a recording of the session provided to The New York Times, saying that Ms. Coleman no longer worked for the agency and that he had named one of his deputy commissioners, Susan Lambiase, as the acting head of the office.

Then, with anger rising in his voice, he said: “I expect that everyone in this room will give her their full support and cooperation. Thank you.” After he left, Ms. Lambiasi told the staff that she was looking forward to working with them and went over a few administrative matters, remarks that lasted less than a minute.
Anastasia Coleman
(Linkedin picture)

Ms. Coleman’s removal seems certain to worsen Mr. Peters’ already frayed relationship with Mayor Bill de Blasio, once his good friend. The mayor appointed Mr. Peters in early 2014, after he served as the treasurer for Mr. de Blasio’s first mayoral campaign. Choosing a friend and campaign treasurer to head the agency responsible for rooting out corruption, fraud and abuse in city government raised questions. The questions grew into concerns when Mr. Peters initially resisted recusing himself in 2016 when Mr. de Blasio’s campaign fund-raising activities — activities which did not involve Mr. Peters — came under scrutiny by federal and state prosecutors.

Before her firing, Ms. Coleman had sent a lengthy memo to the city’s top lawyer, Corporation Counsel Zachary W. Carter, detailing her legal arguments and concerns about Mr. Peters’s changes to the schools investigation office. She concluded with a blistering attack on the investigation department’s conduct.

Finally, it is shocking that an agency that prides itself on public integrity and transparency, and presents itself as the enforcer of city rules, would blatantly disregard laws, bully and retaliate against employees, and demonstrate such poor judgment,” she wrote.

“DOI has overstepped its authority by disregarding” the municipal records that created the office, she continued, “and by unilaterally dismantling the existing authority and structure of SCI.”

Her view is shared by the education department, which funds the office and has publicly resisted the changes, and, according to people familiar with the matter, senior City Hall officials.

In an email to Mr. Peters hours before she was fired, Ms. Coleman identified herself as a whistle-blower and noted that the city administrative code protects her and her deputy from adverse personnel actions for raising concerns about “the potential of criminality, wrongdoing, or mismanagement” to the Investigation Department.

Mr. Peters has steadfastly maintained that the changes he has sought to make were lawful, and he told a City Council hearing on Monday that neither he nor anyone from his staff had been contacted by anyone at the Education Department about the matter.

A spokeswoman for Mr. Peters declined to comment on Ms. Coleman’s firing and the demotion of her deputy. Spokesmen for Mr. de Blasio and Mr. Carter also declined to comment.

Some of the alterations Mr. Peters has sought could significantly change the way the office operates. He has sought the power to set salaries, hire and fire, promote and demote, discipline, and assign the duties and responsibilities of all those who work in the schools office.

He has endeavored to change the title of the head of the office from special commissioner of investigation to inspector general, a less prestigious position that is equivalent to more than a dozen other department officials. That was a sticking point for Ms. Coleman, who, according to documents and emails, was told she would hold the more prestigious title when she was interviewed for the post.

Mr. Condon had the authority to sign subpoenas, compel testimony and publish reports. Ms. Coleman was told she did not have those powers, and needed to seek approval from senior officials at the department.

Mr. Peters said the changes would ensure consistency and add little time to investigations.

When he fired her, Mr. Peters gave Ms. Coleman a letter in which he wrote that he had asked earlier in the day for her resignation because of their “intractable disagreement” over the degree of oversight his agency could exercise over the special commissioner of investigation. He disputed her legal interpretation of the municipal documents — an executive order and two Board of Education resolutions — that created the office, arguing that his changes were lawful.

He also wrote that his agency “found her performance lacking,” although that contention appeared to be something of an afterthought, limited as it was to the last two paragraphs of his two-and-a-half page letter.

Mark G. Peters, commissioner of the city Department of Investigation, has tried to take control of the office that polices corruption in the school system. CreditKevin Hagen for The New York Times
Fight to Control Office That Roots Out Corruption in New York Schools
The selection of a new chancellor has dominated education circles in New York City for the last few weeks, but behind the scenes a more prosaic bureaucratic drama was playing out over control of the office that investigates corruption in the 1.1 million-student school system.

It was a municipal scuffle: The commissioner of the city Department of Investigation tried to seize total control of the semiautonomous office that polices corruption in the school system. The Department of Education has since pushed back — hard.

The move by the investigation commissioner, Mark G. Peters, resulted in an unusual legal skirmish between the two agencies, pitting an archaic set of municipal records against a series of new documents drawn up by the investigation department.

On one side was a series of mayoral executive orders, the earliest dating back to 1990, and two Board of Education resolutions of similar vintage, which give the office its authority. On the other was paperwork prepared by Mr. Peters’ staff that would have given him full control. The outgoing schools chancellor, Carmen Fariña, has refused to sign it.

The office, known as the Special Commissioner of Investigation for the New York City School District, investigates allegations of corruption, criminal activity, conflicts of interest and unethical conduct in the system, the largest in the country.

Taking direct control would give Mr. Peters the power to hire and fire, set salaries, promote and demote, discipline, and assign the duties and responsibilities of the investigators and other employees of the special commissioner’s office. One of the legal documents prepared by the Department of Investigation sought Ms. Fariña’s approval for Mr. Peters’s agency to exercise those powers, as well as the authority to assign staff “consistent with the needs of D.O.I.,” according to a copy of the document.

Without her signature, those responsibilities remain with the office of the special commissioner.

Mr. Peters said his actions were prompted by the retirement late last year of Special Commissioner Richard J. Condon. A widely respected former New York Police Department commissioner, Mr. Condon was appointed special commissioner in 2002 and earned the respect of many at the education and investigation departments, and elsewhere in city government.

Mr. Peters has made additional unilateral changes that appear to run afoul of the orders and resolutions, and which, along with his other actions, would largely eliminate the autonomy that the office has had since it was created in 1990 and which has helped enable it to aggressively root out corruption.

He has changed the title of the head of the office from special commissioner of investigation to inspector general, a less prestigious position that is equivalent to more than a dozen other investigation department officials. The old executive orders provide that the special commissioner has the authority to sign subpoenas, compel testimony and publish reports. The new inspector general, Anastasia Coleman, a former senior assistant district attorney in Brooklyn, would not have those powers, and would have to seek approval from senior officials at the department.

Mr. Peters said those changes would ensure consistency and add little time to investigations.

He has also done away with the special commissioner’s separate website, consolidating it with his department’s. In addition, he has changed the reporting structure. Instead of reporting directly to the investigation commissioner, Ms. Coleman will report to an assistant commissioner, who reports to a deputy commissioner, who reports to the first deputy commissioner, who reports to Mr. Peters.

The changes were needed to create uniformity, Mr. Peters said, and so that his agency could take a more systemic look at the Department of Education, the way it has focused on the city’s Department of Correction and the New York City Housing Authority, where the investigation department has looked into on corruption, mismanagement and other problems.

He also contended that an even older executive order, from 1978, gave him the authority to make the changes he has undertaken because the city school system is now under mayoral control.

In recent weeks, the investigation agency has moved quickly to act on the new authority it has sought over the special commissioner’s office, posting a job vacancy notice for an assistant commissioner level job there, which it has attempted to fund through the education department, according to documents and emails.

But the post, chief information security officer, with a salary of $120,000 to $150,000, would serve the investigation department, according to the posting, which said the job would “increase the agency’s overall security posture.”

Mr. Peters said that the education department funding for the position was only temporary.

Toward the end of the interview, he seemed to be loosing patience with questions about his actions in connection with the special commissioner’s office.

“Either people cooperate with our investigations or they don’t,” he said. “Everything else is just noise.”