Talk of the Sound Responds to New Rochelle’s Twin Statements on Rolf Koehler Issue

Written By: Talk of the Sound News

Last night, at the New Rochelle Board of Education meeting, Vice President Chrisanne Petrone read through a list of draft resolutions to be voted on at the next Board of Education meeting on January 4, 2011. After the entire list was read, board member Lianne Merchant raised a question about a draft resolution regarding Rolf Koehler. Before she could complete her question, Schools Superintendent Richard Organisciak produced a document which he said contained a written statement regarding the resolution.

It was clear from their reaction that not all board members had been informed of the statement, signed by BoE President Sara Richmond along with Organisciak. Richmond was not present for the meeting.

Statement of the New Rochelle Board of Education on School Security Officer Position

The next morning Talk of the Sound received a statement from City Manager Chuck Strome.

Statement of the New Rochelle City Manager on School Security Officer Position

In the statement Schools Superintendent Richard Organisciak makes several noteworthy announcements.

1. Rolf Koehler will return to work in his “old job” effective January 1, 2011.

2. Koehler has dropped his request for a 211 Waiver.

3. The competitive, open exam scheduled for February 2011 has been cancelled at the request of the district.

The rest of the statements contains numerous false, misleading, unsupported or highly questionable claims.

The extent of the mendacity is so pervasive that without a complete set of records to evaluate every sentence fragment it is impossible to do justice to the degree to which Organisciak is lying. Talk of the Sound has already made public records requests to the City of New Rochelle and the New York State Municipal Service Commission (the school district refuses to recognize their obligations under FOIL, another example of the criminality rampant in the district). Once we have all the records, we will fully vet the statement which Organisciak made of point of saying he wished to be made part of the official record last night. Talk of the Sound fully intends to hang Organisciak with his own words to put on public display a useful illustration of why men like Organisciak belong in prison not running school districts.

For example, in item #1, Organisciak claims that the 211 waiver granted by the New York State Civil Service Commission to run through June 2010 was predicated on the satisfactory work done by Mr. Koehler in his assignments since 2005.

No. It was predicated on the false claim that the position was not a permanent filling of the position and the false claim that the District had sought to recruit qualified non-retirees for the position. The State granted the 211 waiver because it accepted as true these and other false claims and required as part of granting the waiver that school district offer an open-competitive exam for the position, and select someone from an eligibility list. The district held the test but refused to select anyone on the eligibility list, published in May 2010.

Sources with direct knowledge have informed Talk of the Sound that Koehler began working for the district long before 2005. He is said to have worked at Isaac E. Young Middle School in a part-time position but was removed following a specific incident involving a student. He retired from the New York Police Department in 2001 and went to work full time for the district.

Another example, in item #2, Organisciak claims that the district requested a new examination for the position of School Security Officer be administered. He says that when that job description was produced, it did not reflect changes in requirements previously determined but that when the district requested that the job description be amended to more appropriately reflect the new job requirements the request was not honored by the City of New Rochelle. Strome, in his statement, says the request was denied by the former Civil Service Administrator. Strome admitted he does not know this but is relying on the school district. Big mistake Chuck. Never trust a guy with beady eyes — and Organisciak has about the beadiest of beady eyes. Neither the school district or the city has produced a shred of evidence that such a request was made or that the request was denied or ever explained why there would be any reason for a request to be denied (note that the request to cancel the February 2011 exam was just “honored” last week). Talk of the Sound has requested these records, if they exist.

In the same item #2, Organisciak says Koehler was not required to take the test in February 2010 because he had successfully taken and passed the previous examination. Not documentation supporting this claim has been produced. What has never been explained is why, if Koehler was eligible for the position, that his name and test score does not appear on the eligibility list along with the 12 other people who took and passed the test.

In item #3, Organisciak says of the 12 people on the eligibility list, there were nine candidates who scored 80 or above and that of these 4 were were retirees ALREADY receiving New York State pensions who would have required waivers of their own.

In response to a question from the board last night, Organisciak went to some lengths to point out that it was up to Koehler to seek a 211 waiver and that if he did not do so then it was up to him to sort that out with his pension provided, that it was a personal decision having nothing to do with the school district. This is true but equally true for the 4 retirees. Had they been offered the job it would have been up to them whether to accept it and how to sort out their pension issues with their pension provider. What for Koehler is a personal choice becomes an automatic disqualification for the other 4 people.

Also in item #3, Organisciak cites as grounds for rejecting candidates qualifications that were not in the job description — no supervisory experience including 2 already employed by the district. The implication being that if you work for the school district in a non-supervisory role you cannot advance to a supervisory role no matter how long you work for the district and what other qualifications you might bring.

After whittling down the list based on criteria not part of the qualifications for the posted position, he gets down to one person among the 12 on the list and concludes that only one non-retiree was available who may have had supervisory experience and DEEMED qualified.

From that he unilaterally declares “When there is only one candidate available, it presents the District with no choice” as if this is somehow the fault of that one person who took the test and excelled. Since when is there a requirement that a civil service exam produce “choice”? The amount of choice would a function of the recruiting effort prior to the exam; they had “no choice” because they sought to limit the amount of choice so that the only choice would be Koehler. Having nearly succeeded (based on trumped up and nonexistent job qualification) in eliminating all alternatives to Koehler, Organisciak bemoans there being only candidate left standing.

The problem is that the criteria used to eliminate candidates was fabricated. There was no requirement to have supervisory experience in the job description for which the 12 people tested. There is no evidence that any attempt was made to develop a new job description prior to the exam (the last formal job description for the position was approved by the BoE on August 27, 1996). There is no evidence that a request was made to amend the job description or that such a request was denied.

The video tape from September 2010 shows the New York State Civil Service Commission was having none of it. Interestingly, staff at the CSC report to the commissioners that the school district claimed there were NO qualified candidates. Organisciak says there was one. Well? Which is it?

In item #4, Organisciak says the New York State Civil Service Commission reviewed the test results and identified three candidates who it felt were qualified for appointment. Having reviewed video tape of past CSC meetings, it is clear that the reason the CSC was able to identify three candidates is because they rejected the district’s claim that they could add ex-post facto criteria to a job description for an open-competitive exam after the exam had been given. For this reason, in June 2010, the CSC directed the District to select one of the three candidates on the eligibility list. The district refused and submitted a new 211 waiver request for Rolf Koehler for a newly fabricated position called “Director of Surveillance”. This position was clearly created the sole purpose of doing an end-around on the New York State Civil Service Commission.

Also in item #5, Organisciak trots out a dubious, Clintonian, “meaning of the word ‘is’ is” prevarication that the CSC said “IF a vacancy existed” and so meant that if Koehler continued to fill the position then there was no reason to select anyone from the eligibility list. This is perhaps the most important lie of them all and something board member David Lacher seized on right away despite having the Organisciak statement sprung on him with no warning.

Realize that what is left out of the beginning of the chronology is why any of this was even necessary — that in the spring of 2009, the CSC directed the District to hold an open-competitive exam but allowed Koehler to remain on the job until June 2010 so as not to disrupt the provision of security services in the New Rochelle school system. The only reason given for letting Koehler stay on for the rest of the year was because the District agreed to have an open competition for the position and select someone from the resulting eligibility list by June 30, 2010. Having been given the extra time, Organisciak then wants to argue that this very extension to allow for a smooth transition while the test is given and eligible candidates are identified becomes his pretext for not selecting anyone from the list. You have to be creative to pervert the law this way and make it sound reasonable to people who are not paying close attention.

Bad news for Richard, we parse his every word!

In item #5, Organisciak says that in the Summer of 2010, the New York State Civil Service Commission upon request by City School District provided an extension of Rolf Koehler’s 211 Waiver through October 31, 2010.

No. First, it was not summer. It was late September. Fall. The video of the CSC meeting in September 2010 quite clearly shows that the CSC flatly rejected all of this nonsense, turned down the district’s request for a one year 211 waiver for Koehler running until 2012 and instead again directed the district to pick from the list and gave them until October 31, 2010. The district did not get what they wanted and they were flatly told, in effect, to stop screwing around and pick someone from the list.

The first part of item #6 cannot be evaluated at this time because the exact date is not provided. It just says in “September 2010” the City School District developed new specifications for a School Security Specialist position and requested that a test be given for this title. The test was scheduled for February 5, 2011.

We need to know when exactly the district supposedly developed new specifications for a School Security Specialist position — before or after the CSC meeting in September at which time they were shot down by the CSC. We need to know where there is any evidence of this.

This item #6 also says that a request was made for a test. The statement by Organisciak places this information in an item referencing September 2010. This would appear to be an attempt to trick the listener/reader into believing that the request was made in September. That seems highly unlikely as the resolution for the new 211 waiver for Koehler was not presented to the BoE until November 30, 2010 and the City of New Rochelle CSC did not post the job until December 2010.

In fact, the supposed chronology is jumbled. Right off the top there should be an item preceding #1 which would explain why there was a need to request a 211 waiver for Koehler at all.

The last part of item #6, and #7 and #8 are completely out of order.

#6 – “The City School District determined that a broad review of existing security needs and requirements for the District should be undertaken”

No. This was in December 2010 not September 2010.

#6 – “The City School District…requested that the test be canceled.”

No. This was in December 2010 not September 2010.

#7 – “In November 2010, the City School District elected to withdraw a pending request for a continuation of Mr. Koehler’s 211 Waiver.”

No. This happened at the end of the COW Meeting on December 7, 2010.

#8 – “The incumbent, Mr. Koehler, requested and was granted a leave of absence from his job as School Security Officer to run from November 1, 2010 through January 1, 2011.”

No. This happened in October 2010 not December 2010.

This absurd, twisted, jumbled and complete turd of a public statement by King Turd Richard Organisciak would be laughable if it were not an attempt to cover up criminal activity by the school district and elements in the civil service commission to line the pockets of a double-dipping ex-cop. Springing the statement on an unprepared, unaware school board was Turd Boy’s latest attempt to crap all over the people elected by New Rochelle residents to serve in a fiduciary capacity as trustees with responsible for spending down 80% of the taxes collected in New Rochelle. It was refreshing to see that just a few of the board members appear to be resented being crapped on. It’s about time. Now if someone will wake up Mary Jane Reddington and let her know the meeting is over.

This is about as far as this analysis can do with out additional records from the City of New Rochelle, the City School District of New Rochelle and the New York State Civil Service Commission. As Talk of the Sound recognizes that the criminal element which has hijacked control of our public school system will not provide these records, we will wait for the City and the State and update this analysis as more records becomes available.

Finally, there are some folks out there who have further information and further insights or may see things I am not seeing in all this. I need your help so please add comments, email me or call with any ideas, clarifications, points of analysis or any other toughs on how this critique can be enhanced. I will be doing another iteration of this as I get documents via FOIL so there is still time to provide input either publicly or privately.