When the U.S. Attorney for Northern New Jersey announced the arrest of over 40 politicians and some members of a religious order, he describe those arrested as putting forward a “Facade of Rectitude” in order to lie, cheat and steal from the public coffers. It struck me as an apt phrase to describe the false piety that public officials in New Rochelle – some elected, some appointed – adopt when dealing with the public or the press. Rather then acknowledge problems directly, their first instinct is often to adopt the demeanor of righteous indignation that any resident would dare question the honor of their intentions. This is not to say that every public official is a fraud but rather the leadership of our city has been so ingrained with a culture based on opacity and self-dealing that even those officials who might embrace principles of open government and transparency do so at tremendous risk to their own careers.
This Facade of Rectitude depends on portraying every every effort to withhold information, to mislead, to dissemble, or otherwise to deceive the public as selfless acts undertaken for the benefit of the “greater good” when in reality the motivations are far less noble. Too often were told, “if you only understood the full context”, or “it’s a matter of privacy”, or, most often, “our lawyers told us we have no choice”. It is this Facade of Rectitude which allows our public officials to keep their jobs despite disseminating obvious falsehoods or remaining silent in the face of corruption and outright theft.
More than two weeks ago Jason Martinez, and employee of the New Rochelle city government was arrested for drug dealing. This employee worked in the information technology department at City Hall and had access to every computer on the city is network. This person is by definition a “security risk”. He is the poster child of a security risk. Someone willing to sell drugs to augment their income is someone willing to sell confidential information about city employees, information on confidential informants, credit card information, and pretty much anything else he can get his hands on. So, why would the city manager make a public statement claiming that this individual did not represent a security risk. That statement is laughable on its face.
As is so often the case with all the nepotism and back-room deals done to trade civil service and BoE positions, Martinez is married to a woman who works for the Board of Education — Patricia Martinez. Does anyone actually believe that the wife did not know that her husband was a drug dealer? Really? Come on. According to the Journal News she was making $56K working over at Trinity as of 2007. And these are the people that we are hiring to maintain highly confidential data on her city computers and to take care of our kids? She has to go too.
We reported extensively on a school district employee, Donna Henry, who obtained and disseminated sexual images of a child. Among others, she disseminated child pornography to other district employees. Yet, not only did the police not conduct a full investigation. They did not conduct any investigation. Not only did the school district not fire Ms. Henry. She was recommended for a new position at higher pay. When we learned of the Board resolution assigning her to her new, higher paying, position the resolution was tabled. That resolution has never been brought forward since yet some how Donna Henry is now working in the very position for which she was recommended — resolution or no resolution. This is a woman that should not be allowed in contact with children. She shouldn’t be working for any school district. Instead, she is not only working at New Rochelle High School but is assigned to a shift where she comes in contact with students attending summer school every evening.
We reported previously on Victor Costa, the HVAC engineer who, while employed by the district, worked full time elsewhere but who still found time to receive and cash a BoE paycheck. Sources tell Talk of the Sound that not only was Costa being paid for a no-show job by like so many other employees in the district was misappropriating school property. Our sources tell us that Costa’s little shell game has been going on for many years. We reported months ago that the district attorney was investigating. Our sources now tell us that the day of reckoning for Mr. Costa may soon be at hand.
We also reported on the father and son locksmith team that were drawing a combined income of over $150,000 while owning and operating two other locksmith businesses which then sold equipment and services back to the district.
We have also reported on Frank Demasi, a carpenter working for the Board of Education, who had for many years appropriated school district vehicles for his personal use. This would logically entail also misappropriating fuel, oil, insurance, and anything else required to keep vehicles running. After we ran our report on Mr. DeMasi, the district ordered that all school is your vehicles be parked in a prominently displayed area in front of the high school knew the tennis courts or North Avenue. More than two dozen vehicles that had not been present before then materialized. How many more employees were using these vehicles for personal use — many, you can be sure.
The Comptroller of the State of New York has cited the district for various bad practices regarding their accounting including highly questionable “emergency” HVAC payments. Of course, when the guy you’re paying to fix your air conditioning is off working someplace else then I suppose everything is an emergency.
And where in all of this is the Director of Buildings & Grounds? All these people mentioned above work for John Gallagher. Are we seriously supposed to believe that Mr. Gallagher and the people who work under him were not aware of the people getting paychecks who did not show up for work? Who was approving the invoices that were being paid for supplies and equipment that went missing? Either Mr. Gallagher is a complete incompetent or is in on the action. One way or the other, he is responsible when the employees in his department lie, cheat and steal.
Ask him yourself: firstname.lastname@example.org
And maybe someone can explain why Gallagher is not listed in the lohud.com list of school employee salaries? http://bit.ly/mdGUD
We have also reported on the questionable relationship between administrators in the school district and a local restaurant and cooking school, McMenamin’s grail, which is eventually taken over by federal bankruptcy trustee after the lawyer representing Brian McMenamin asked to be removed from the case because it wanted be drawn into what he expected to be a criminal investigation. These are the people in our school district is doing business with.
Schools Superintendent Richard Organisciak has routinely been exposed for lying in his public statements to the press and the school board meetings. The recently replaced School Board President, Cindy Babcock-Deutsch. lied repeatedly to residents who attended school budget meetings last spring when she asserted there was a law that prevented her or any member of the board from providing residents information on the status of then-ongoing union negotiations. John Quinn, assistant superintendent of finance, repeatedly lied regarding Freedom of Information Law Requests.
The biggest lie of all has been the claim that in order to fund the $229 million school budget passed last May, school taxes will go up only about 3%. That has always been a lie. The district has known all along that it’s a lie. At the first budget meeting in March, school board member David Lacher acknowledged that the district did not know what the assessed value of property for New Rochelle would be next fall And that the tax increase number was a figure made up solely to satisfy those who might ask the question. John Quinn and Richard Organisciak both admitted a few weeks later that about 80% of the funding for the school budget was based on simply plugging in a number with no thought given to the accuracy of that number –the projected decline in assessed value of property in New Rochelle. anyone who can read a newspaper could tell you that the assessed value of property in our city was going to decline significantly because property values were declining by more than 30% all over Westchester and that those declines would result in large reductions in the assessed value of property during the upcoming tax appeals process.
Recently, Mayor Bramson went on the radio to declare that development in New Rochelle it generated a surplus of over $2 million for the school system. To determine whether or not such a surplus exists, it would be necessary to calculate both revenue from development and costs associated with educating children living in those buildings. Schools Superintendent Richard Organisciak has repeatedly misrepresented the number of children living in but to Avalon buildings. Over this past winter he told members of city Council that there were roughly 50 children from the two Avalons registered in the public schools. A couple months later, appearing before a PTA group, Organisciak told parents there were about two dozen kids from the first Avalon building and dissembled regarding the second Avalon building but conveyed the false notion that there were 25 or less kids in both buildings. In fact, the actual number of children in both Avalon buildings is over 80 kids enrolled in the New Rochelle public schools. that means the cost of educating those children is somewhere around $1.6 million. So, Mayor Bramson now needs to explain — and cannot — how buildings which don’t pay taxes are able to generate the $3.6 million in revenue necessary to cause a $2 million surplus for the school district.
So long as New Rochelle residents allow and our public officials to engage in this sort of deception and hypocrisy, the culture of opacity and self-dealing will continue.
The time has come to tear down their Facade of Rectitude.