This is Part III in a Series.
One of the many attempts to prevent Talk of the Sound from exposing corruption in the New Rochelle school system was a civil lawsuit filed against me by two district employees. I want to share with readers some of the sworn testimony from the depositions in that lawsuit which are revealing about the nature of the New Rochelle School District but are also perversely comical in their own way. To tee that up I need to first provide background on the lawsuit and a few samples of the transcripts. After that I will post a few more articles that focus on specific exchanges during the depositions.
It was not long after I launched Talk of the Sound that I was encouraged to visit Cliff Street, the location of the Grounds Maintenance yard, up until recently, managed by Jimmy Bonanno. I demurred on visiting the yard on the grounds that all I would see were some trucks and equipment and buildings. I tried to explain that it was not as if there was going to be a sign screaming “corruption” so why bother. And for a good long while I did not bother. I did not even know where the yard was exactly or what it looked like and would not have known Jimmy Bonanno if he was standing in front of me. I was not familiar with any of the names of the people who worked there under Jimmy or what sort of corruption might be going on.
One night, in the winter of 2011, I was out late observing snow removal operations in New Rochelle (another story of corruption for another day). It was about 2 a.m. I was driving around in the South End of New Rochelle and decided to find the Cliff Street yard and just see what I could see. There was not a whole lot to see but the next day I wrote an article raising some questions — why were the gates left wide open, why were there no security cameras and, apocryphally for Jimmy Bonanno, why was there a boat parked in the yard? That boat would prove to by Jimmy’s bane.
About a week or so later, I was out late again one night and decided to swing by the Cliff Street yard to see if there had been any reaction to my article — was the gate closed, were cameras installed, was the boat still there?
The boat was still there but now there was a message painted on the side of the boat next to a skull and crossbones that read “Bob Cox sleeps with the fish”. For those who are not film buffs, the phrase is a literary reference to The Godfather, one of Jimmy Bonanno’s favorite films.
[knock on door]
SONNY: What is it?
CLEMENZA: Hey, Paulie, I thought I told you to stay put.
PAULIE: Well, the guy at the gates say — say they got a package.
SONNY: Yeah? Hey, Tessio, go see what it is.
PAULIE (to Sonny, after Tessio exits): You want me to hang around?
SONNY: Yeah, hang around. You all right?
PAULIE: Yeah, I’m fine
SONNY: Yeah? —
[Paulie coughs, perhaps deliberately]
SONNY: — There’s some food in the icebox, you hungry or anything?
PAULIE: Nah, it’s alright — thanks…
SONNY: How ’bout a drink? Have a little brandy — that’ll help sweat it out. Huh? Go’ahead, baby…
PAULIE: Alright, sure — that might be a good idea…
SONNY: Yeah, right. (then to Clemenza, after Paulie exits) I want you to take care of that sonofabitch right away. Paulie sold out the old man, that stronz’. I don’t want to see him again. Make that first thing on your list, understand?
SONNY: Hey, Mickey, tomorrow — get a couple of guys, you go over to Luca’s apartment; hang around, waitin’ for him to show up…
TOM: Uh maybe we shouldn’t get Mike uh mixed up in this too directly.
SONNY: Yeah, listen, uh… hang around the house on the phone an’ be a big help, huh? (then) Try Luca again — ga’head
[Tessio enters with package, which he places on Sonny’s lap]
SONNY (unwrapping the package of Luca’s bulletproof vest-wrapped fish) What the hell is this?
CLEMENZA: It’s a Sicilian message. It means Luca Brasi sleeps with the fishes.
[Michael hangs up the phone]
In other words, the message on the boat was a death threat.
My wife was very upset. She works for the school district and felt threatened. I obtained photographs of the boat and reported the matter to the police. Initially the police said they would investigate the matter. Later they said there was no need because the message was “just graffiti” and “meant as a joke” and “not meant for me to see”. The police never interviewed me in this matter and I never received an explanation as to how the police were able to determine these things. I also reported the matter to the school district which refused to investigate the matter or take action. As a result I informed the district that I would keep my children out of school until some sort of action was taken. Several days later the district called Child Protective Services and falsely accused my wife and I of child abuse for keeping our kids out of school over a period of 4 days. Unannounced, a CPS investigator showed up at our house. She met with my children without me. After interviewing them she inspected our home and then interviewed me. She soon came to understand that the referral to CPS was a form of retribution by the district against me and my wife. She stated that if it were her, speaking personally, she would move away from a district that would try to use CPS to harass a parent. We stayed.
I hope readers might consider what sort of depraved human being you would need to be to concoct knowingly false stories of child abuse against parents, one of whom works for you, but such is the nature of Richard Organisciak and the New Rochelle Board of Education. They knew of this and supported it, in particular Sara Richmond the Board President, Dee Polow, David Lacher, et al. I believe Jeffrey Kehl knew of this. They seemed to think this was quite a clever way to get retribution against me for articles critical of them. Again, these are depraved, sick individuals who believe that nothing is off the table when it comes to protecting their personal interests and covering up corruption in the district.
About two years later, Dr. Rhonda Jones, head of Pupil Services for the District, gave a presentation on truancy officers and how absences from school were handled by the district. There was nothing in the policy about calling CPS at all, and ANY sort of action by truancy officers occurred over a period of months of absences — not four days.
The result of all this was that whatever mild interest I did or did not have in Jimmy Bonanno and the goings on at the Cliff Street yard up until that point, they had my attention now. I began investigating Bonanno and his crew in earnest and wrote a series of stories about them documenting all manner of corruption from misappropriation of school vehicles and equipment, running side jobs, theft, falsified billing records and more. I published stories on Talk of the Sound and discussed them on my radio show on WVOX.
In April 2012, Jimmy Bonanno and his son, “Little Jimmy”, each filed criminal complaints against me accusing me of harassment. The same Criminal Investigations Unit that would not take my complaint about the threat on the boat, did take their complaints. The investigation was assigned to Detective Greg Herring. According to Detective Herring, the matter was taken to the Westchester County District Attorney which concluded that I had done nothing illegal. The first I heard of the complaint was a phone call telling me that there had been a complaint by the Bonannos but I had done nothing wrong so the investigation was being closed.
Having failed with their criminal complaints, Jimmy Bonanno and his son, “Little Jimmy”, next filed a joint civil lawsuit against me and WVOX radio in New York State Supreme Court in June 2012 claiming they had been defamed by my reporting. I represented myself pro se and can safely say that I wiped the floor with Bonanno and his attorneys. One of them admitted that I was the toughest pro se attorney he had ever encountered. My father is an attorney but I think the tenaciousness they were describing might be more rightly attributed to his mother, my grandmother.
The case dragged on for two and half years. Happily, their hack attorneys took a financial beating and spent most of the last year trying to get out of representing the Bonannos. The Bonannos not only lost the case but ended up writing me a check for $2,000.
The lawsuit against me was against me personally, and in my role as Publisher of Talk of the Sound and against the radio station for my Talk of the Sound Radio show which Bonanno claimed had five million listeners. I wish!
The central theme of the lawsuit was that WVOX and I were involved in a “calculated smear campaign”, purposefully misleading my audience into believing that Jimmy Bonanno was a “corrupt public employee who was misappropriating government resources, engaging in extortion, and hiring known criminals”.
Anyone familiar with Jimmy Bonanno can see why he lost the case — he is a corrupt public employee who was misappropriating government resources, engaging in extortion, and so on.
Each count in the case claims that the basis for the defamation claims are that WVOX and I presented what we claimed were false statements as facts and “investigative reports” that had been independently confirmed and vetted. All reports were based on facts gleaned from investigations by me, and they were each independently confirmed and vetted. So, again, it is easy to see why the Bonannos lost their case. Their claims in their lawsuit were false. WVOX had nothing to do with what I wrote or what I said on air, they simply broadcast what I said on my show. They were dropped from the case before it ended.
It is worth noting that until the first day of depositions in the case, in September of 2013, I had not only never met Bonanno I had never seen Bonanno and did not know what he looked like. My reporting on him was strictly based on tips from a variety of sources who, for over two years, were encouraging me to investigate Jimmy Senior and what was going on at Cliff Street.
The complaint the Bonannos filed contained seven counts or “Causes of Action”, one involving Little Jimmy and the rest involving his father. Now, I am going to publish some of the more interesting, absurd and comical exchanges from the depositions — I have the transcripts of all of them and video recordings of most of them but as I mentioned above, I need to tee that up a bit.
The First Cause of Action is in reference to my reporting that Jimmy Bonanno ordered members of his Grounds Maintenance crew to Orange County to work on on his girlfriend’s house. To wit, “on June 23, 2011, via his “Talk of the Sound” website, Defendant Cox published an article titled “New Rochelle Schools Supervisor James Bonanno Misappropriates School District Employees to Work on Private Home in Orange County.” (the “June 23, 2011 Article”). The June 23, 2011 Article stated that: “…each day, workers from New Rochelle would make the hour plus drive up to Orange County while clocked in as working in New Rochelle. Talk of the Sound will not publish the names of employees in cases where they ordered [sic] to engage in illegal or unethical behavior their boss to keep the focus on the supervisors who are engaged in illegal or unethical conduct.”
This information is true. Jimmy Bonanno admitted under oath that district employees did work on his girlfriend’s house in Orange County but claimed that they took vacation days or went on weekends to work on his girlfriend’s house because “that’s what friends do”. Of course, these men were not Bonanno’s friends but employees that he supervised and could reward with light duty or overtime or punish. In this case, I also sent this information to the district and waited for a month for a response before running the story. I never got one.
The Second Cause of Action is directly related to the first but involves my repeating the same information on WVOX, to wit “The next day, on June 24, 2011, Defendant Hudson broadcast its radio show, starring Defendant Cox as its host (the “Radio Show”). On Defendant Hudson’s Radio Show, Defendant Cox stated: ground supervisor James Bonanno ordered three school district employees to report to work at a house owned by his girlfriend in Upstate New York over a period of several days as part of an ongoing renovation of the property. This is a blatant misappropriation of city resources in New Rochelle school. The fact is that they’ve got…they’re using school district vehicles to do their little side jobs all over Westchester County, okay? …These are facts, okay? Jimmy Bonanno…All of these guys…people who were stealing from the city. They’re stealing from the school district…When asked whether he had “neglected to mention the auto parts extortion thing as well,” Defendant Cox stated “no, that was Bonanno.” Defendant Cox also stated that Plaintiff James Junior was “spray painting death threats on the side of Jimmy’s boat.” Defendant Cox then stated that “how you get to work under Jimmy, is that you have to show your bona fides somehow, and one good way to do it is you have a criminal record.””
As already noted the Orange County store was true. The “auto parts extortion thing” was a reference to my reporting that Jimmy Bonanno attempted to extort a mechanic with a district contract to maintain vehicles, also true. The Third Cause of Action refers to the boat/death threat so I will come to that next.
The Third Cause of Action is that I accused Plaintiff James Junior of making death threats. To wit, “On October 16, 2011, via his “Talk of the Sound” website, Defendant Cox published the statement: “Jimmy Bonanno, Jr. (Buildings & Grounds): Painted death threat against Robert Cox “Cox Sleeps with the Fishes” on the side of a boat owned by his father at the Cliff Street Yard controlled by his father James Bonanno” (the “October 16, 2011 Article”).
This statement is true. Now that the Bonannos lost the lawsuit even they are no longer disputing that this is true. The fact is that it is widely known that Little Jimmy wrote the message on the boat. This came from numerous, independent sources. But it was obvious anyway. The handwriting on the boat bore a strong resemblance to Little Jimmy’s handwriting found in documents I had obtained under Freedom of Information Law requests. The boat was owned by his father who was known to be tyrannical in dealing with his crew — the idea that anyone other than his own son could deface Jimmy Senior’s boat and live to the tale is preposterous. Sworn testimony obtained during depositions further corroborated that Little Jimmy is the one who painted the death threat on the boat. Transcripts of the depositions were turned over to Vigilant Resources International, the district’s PI firm, but no action had been taken against Little Jimmy for making this threat against me and, by extension, my wife, a teacher in the district and our family.
The Fourth Cause of Action is that I stated that Jimmy Bonanno was engaged in all manner of corrupt practices. To wit, “on March 30, 2012, via his “Talk of the Sound” website, Defendant Cox published the statement: “Vincent “Jimmy” Bonanno is a buildings and grounds supervisor whose long list of corrupt practices have been documented on Talk of the Sound” (the “March 30, 2012 Article”).
This statement is true as been amply documented on Talk of the Sound over the years but included private trash hauling, a scrap metal business on district time, stealing scrap metal from the district, misappropriation of vehicles and equipment for personal use, falsified billing records, using his men to do work on private homes, to run a landscaping business, and many, many more.
The Fifth Cause of Action is the Orange County reporting. To wit, On April 16, 2012, via his “Talk of the Sound” website, Defendant Cox published the statement: “Orange County Property Being Renovated at Taxpayer Expense by School District Buildings and Grounds Supervisor James Bonanno” (the “April 16, 2012 Article”). This statement is true as was documented above.
The Sixth Cause of Action was the claim that Jimmy Bonanno and his crew were involved in ”all manner of illegal activity”. To wit, “On April 27, 2012, via his “Talk of the Sound” website, Defendant Cox published the statement: Bonanno Foreman Misappropriates Yet Another School district Vehicle with Wink from John Gallagher: Jimmy Bonanno is untouchable. At least that is the message he is sending to the New Rochelle Board of Education. He and his crew have been involved in all manner of illegal activity and yet Bonanno laughs in their face … Bonanno and his son, “Little Jimmy” are well-known to Talk of the Sound readers regarding numerous incidents of malfeasance. By permitting Porretto to misappropriate the vehicle, Bonanno could be charged as an accessory. Just add it to a very long list. (the “April 27, 2012 Article”).
This statement is true. The Plaintiffs have been involved in “all manner of illegal activity”, have engaged in malfeasance, and routinely permitted others to misappropriate school district vehicles (and did so themselves, I might add).
Jimmy Jr. is a known heroin addict. As such he purchased and possessed a controlled substance on numerous occasions, each one a violation of New York State law. Jimmy Jr. has been video taped misappropriating a school district vehicle for personal use (going to the methadone clinic on Sickles Avenue in New Rochelle). He was arrested for drunk driving in 2005. Jimmy Sr., has operated various businesses using district equipment and personnel including a carting business using school district garbage trucks and a landscaping business. I have reported to school board members, on numerous occasions that garbage trucks that were supposed to be parked at or near 51 Cliff Street were not at that location on the weekends (when my reports are that Jimmy Sr. was running his carting business).
The Seventh Cause of Action is again about the Orange County story. To wit, “On May 31, 2012, via his “Talk of the Sound” website, Defendant Cox published the statement: “Jimmy Bonanno, Sr. (Buildings & Grounds) misappropriated school equipment and staff, directed school district employees to perform work on his girlfriend’s house in Orange County” (the “May 31, 2012 Article”).
This statement is true. Bonanno has (often) misappropriated school equipment or staff, and has directed school district employees to perform work on his girlfriend’s house in Orange County.
One complaint made over and over by Bonanno is not actually in the lawsuit. He has repeatedly complained in court and in conferences with the court referee that I had stated that he was in the mafia.
I have said the opposite, that Bonanno is such a screw up that the mafia would not take him if he begged on bended knee.
What Bonanno is referring to, however, is that I said he is connected to the mafia through his family. This is true, his mother’s brother, his uncle, was in the mafia. Jimmy denied this under oath. That might surprise many readers who know Bonanno personally because it is something he bragged about this entire life since he was a child.
So this article is about laying out the circumstances that led to the bogus harassment claims and bogus lawsuits filed by the two Bonannos. It is a little dry, I realize. But next up we will get into some of the exchanges during the depositions and in court some of which are hilarious in their own warped way. I saw that despite having had to waste a good deal of time dealing with the lawsuit, it is worth it if only to get such comedy gold out of two of the biggest dummies in New Rochelle.
It took just minutes into the first hour of the first day of depositions for Bonanno to hit comedy pay dirt.
Q. Mr. Bonanno, if you will, tell me where and when you were born?
A. I was born in New Rochelle Hospital, June 17th, 1954.
Q. Do you have any siblings?
A. Yes, one brother.
Q. Older or younger?
Q. His name is?
A. Joseph V.
Q. Is the V for Vincent?
A. I don’t know. I really don’t.
Q. You don’t know your brother’s middle name?
A. I just know it’s Joseph V. I don’t know if it was for Vincent. I’m being honest.
Wow! Think about that. His name is Vincent James Bonanno. His son is James Vincent Bonanno. His brother is Joseph V. Bonanno but he has no idea if the V is for Vincent, or what it is for. I love the last part where he says “I’m being honest”. My advice? Any time Jimmy Bonanno is telling you he is being honest, check your wallet.
Over and over, Jimmy Bonanno said “I don’t know” or “I don’t remember” even to questions he obviously would know. There is one brief exchange the perfectly summarizes Bonanno’s strategy in how to respond during the depositions:
Q. Did anyone at any time tell you to say I don’t remember at a deposition?
A. I don’t remember.
Here’s a good one, when Jimmy is asked about the New Rochelle union of which he is a member:
Q. And what is the name of the union?
A. FUSE, F-U-S-E.
Q. Does it stand for anything, or is that just the name of the union?
A. It stands for something, federal — I don’t remember.
You might think Jimmy would know this because he has been a FUSE member since it was formed. For the record, it stands for “Federation of United School Employees”.
Please think of these next few articles as a story within the story of the corruption in the school district. I will be publishing the Xanax exchange, sure to be a comedy classic, the Mafia exchange where Jimmy is confronted with direct evidence that his uncle was in the mafia and tries to squirm out of admitting it and then there is the Little Jimmy transcripts. Comedy gold, I tell you!