NEW ROCHELLE, NY — New Rochelle Schools Superintendent Brian Osborne appears to have violated New York State law as part of his ongoing effort to conceal a public record that bears directly on a proposed $50 million bond and raises serious questions about Osborne’s willingness to jeopardize the health and safety of members of the Webster School community including children. The matter has been referred to the New York State Attorney General’s Public Integrity Bureau.
The record in question is one I know to exist, which Osborne and school board members know exist, one which they know I know exists and which I can prove in a court of law beyond a doubt exists — and fully intend to when the times comes.
Over the past 18 months I have sought to obtain a copy of a report produced for the board by Mike Orifici in the Spring of 2014. It was prepared to provide the District an accurate description of the condition of each school after years of deferred maintenance and repairs, and what steps needed to be taken immediately (as part of the Expanded Summer Projects in 2014) so that the buildings would be safe to open in September 2014. The report contains a prioritized list of issues with district buildings based on a review of past building reports, an inspection of each building by Orifici, accompanied by former Director of Buildings and Grounds John Gallagher of Aramark.
My efforts to obtain this report have been thwarted at every turn. Finally, in a letter dated October 22, 2015, Dr. Osborne formally and in writing denied my appeal with regard to yet another FOIL request made in August 2015 to obtain this record on the grounds that no such record exists. I am highly confident that his written and sworn statement in this letter is knowingly false
As required by law, a copy of this letter was sent to Robert Freeman, Executive Director of the New York State Committee on Open Government, a public servant in a public office. That office has confirmed the letter was received and filed by their office.
This letter appears to violate New York Penal Law 175.30 which states as follows:
“A person is guilty of offering a false instrument for filing in the second degree when, knowing that a written instrument contains a false statement or false information, he offers or presents it to a public office or public servant with the knowledge or belief that it will be filed with, registered or recorded in or otherwise become a part of the records of such public office or public servant. Offering a false instrument for filing in the second degree is a class A misdemeanor.”
In executing and filing the letter linked above, I believe, Dr. Osborne committed a criminal act, Offering a False Instrument for Filing in the Second Degree, a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in prison.
I have offered Dr. Osborne numerous opportunities to walk back his false claims and produce the record, including a “final warning” email sent last week giving him until Friday to produce the record. With his having failed to do so, I am left no choice but to escalate the matter by making the matter public and filing a complaint with the New York State Attorney General.
In a separate email, I have advised all members of the New Rochelle Board of Education of my intention to take further steps to bring this matter to the attention of the public and pursue the matter with the appropriate law enforcement officials.
All school board members with the exception of Maddali Attalah, elected this past May, know the report I have sought exists because it was distributed to them as part of a secret presentation to the board by Michael Orifici, an outside consultant in the Spring of 2014 under the false pretense that the board was going into executive session to discuss the work history of a particular individual when, in fact, the board discussed what I have taken to calling the “Orifici Report”.
What is the most incredible thing to me about Osborne’s claim that the report does not exist is that up until this past August the report was not some sort of “state secret”. They all know the central role I played in bringing forward the information that led to corruption investigations by Orifici as well as Fred Baldino of Vigilant Resources International, a private investigations firm (Osborne and the Board buried that report as well but that is a story for another day). Some of them know I have written records — emails and text messages — from board members and school officials discussing the very report that Dr. Osborne has now claimed, under oath, does not exist.
For the duration of the 2014-15 school year, Osborne’s first year, I stayed away from school board meetings and did not, to my recollection, write a single unkind word about him or his actions during that first school year. I left him alone because I had no particular issue with him and certainly no desire to see him fail. That came crashing down, literally, when the Webster School was taken offline and he sought to represent himself to parents as concerned about their children’s welfare when the record clearly showed otherwise.
About two weeks ago, on October 22nd, for the first time in almost 14 months, I came before the board over this one issue — that Dr. Osborne was making false statements to deny the existence of a report that I know exists, that the board knows exists and that I have ample evidence exists.
What is disturbing, although not surprising given the past conduct of the school board, is that all of them remained silent while Dr. Osborne and Mike Orifici made repeated false statements at the Bond Input Forum that night.
Many of those false statements were made in response to remarks that my son and I made that night. I would urge you to view this video before and after reading the rest of this article.
I am aware that board members made a sort of “pact” when he was hired to be united and not say or do anything to contradict Schools Superintendent Dr. Brian Osborne. That might have seemed to be a good idea given the past turmoil. Sadly, Dr. Osborne has walked the plank of lies and deceit in regards to what he knew and when he knew it regarding the condition of the buildings and the existence of the Orifici Report. Unfortunately for board members, he has dragged them out there with him and so they are now complicit in his effort to deceive the public including going so far as to engage in what I believe will be proven to be a criminal act.
I have made a good faith effort to try and quietly hash this out with Dr. Osborne over a period of more than a year and found that each step of the way he doubled-down on the lies and deceit. For me, the final straw was the 24 hour period on 10/21-22 when Dr. Osborne formally denied the existence of the record and the many false statements he and Orifici made at the Bond Input Forum.
They are certainly feeling the heat. In the hallway after the meeting Orifici came upon a conversation between myself and a Webster parent who had asked Orifici a question during the forum. I briefly introduced myself to Orifici. The parent proceeded to ask Orifici a follow up question to his earlier question which Orifici began to answer. Suddenly he turned to me angrily, made some insulting remarks directed at me and stormed off, telling the Webster parent (loud enough for me to hear) that if I reported on the encounter he would have his lawyers “all over him” (meaning me). What exactly concerned him about what he had said to the parent is mystifying to me but readers are well familiar with how I respond to these sorts of mindless threats – I publish them as I am doing here.
Orifici may have been upset because moments earlier he and Osborne had stumbled over their responses to my remarks at the Bond Input Forum, referencing “the report” then backtracking to claim that “the report” — and they admit SOME report was given to Dr. Osborne at the time he started with the district on 7/1/14 — was the CapProSoft report which I have previously obtained under FOIL.
The CapProSoft is a 17 page table titled “Five Year Plan” — it looks like a spreadsheet — that lists various items in need of work along with the school location, the associated dollar amount, the priority level (in terms of danger to the health and safety of students and staff) and the “Inspection Year”.
It’s important to realize the significance of their claim, seen in the video, that the report Osborne was given by Orifici in July 2014 is the CapProSoft report not the report I have been seeking to obtain for two reasons which prove they are both lying. First, they both admit Osborne was given a report. Second, it is impossible that Orifici gave Osborne the CapProSoft report in July 2014 because it had yet to be created. Third, the Inspection Years indicated in the CapProSoft are 2013 and 2014 but if there is no “Orifici Report” there is no 2014 inspection.
At the very end of the Bond Input Forum video, readers can see I asked Orifici on how the data got into the CapProSoft report. He gave three different, conflicting explanations before I challenged him. Initially he said that he entered the data, then he said he walked around and entered the data and then he said the data came from the AVI reports. The AVI reports were produced by Orifici in December 2013 which is why some of the CapProSoft items reference an Inspection Year of 2013. Except for the report that I seek there is no other inspection of school buildings in 2014. The CapProSoft report is, in fact, referring to the report I seek.
I then threw him a curveball. I pressed Orifici on the involvement of BOCES in entering data into the CapProSoft report. That caught him off-guard. I do not believe anyone in the room – not even the school board — was aware of BOCES involvement in producing the CapProSoft report except Osborne and Orifici and me so it must have been quite a shock to them that I knew about that. Perhaps shocked enough to be angry about it the hallway and make wild, accusatory statements and threaten a lawsuit.
In fact, weeks before, I had made a FOIL request of BOCES seeking all records related to Orifici and the New Rochelle schools. At that point I had yet to receive a reply. Whether by coincidence or not, the next day I received a response to my FOIL request from BOCES. I am confident that NYSED and BOCES tell the local school district about any inquiry I make so it was no surprise when BOCES likewise made a false statement about those records. The Assistant Superintendent for Business Administration for Southern Westchester BOCES stated, in writing, that his office had no records of anything involving Orifici and New Rochelle. Something which I knew to be false and which, courtesy of Mr. Orifici’s answers on the Bond Input Forum, recorded on video tape, I could now prove. I notified the BOCES Assistant Superintendent that I had Orifici on record, on videotape, from the night before admitting that BOCES had contracted with Orifici’s firm to enter the data. Within a matter of minutes the BOCES Assistant Superintendent admitted he did have the records after all.
The BOCES records provided to me a few days later, while still not complete, include invoices showing that data entry work was done for the CapProSoft report between September 2014 and November 2014. There is an additional document from January 2015. And, of course, I have the CapProSoft report itself which I obtained under FOIL two months ago from the District which indicates it was published on March 11, 2015.
Based on these records, it is utterly and definitively impossible that what Osborne and Orifici claimed could be true – that the report provided to Osborne in July 2014 was the CapProSoft report. They both lied. They lied repeatedly and they did so to cover up the truth, that the report I have been seeking for over a year exists.
But I can go one step further based on a different FOIL request to the District for records related to Orifici. Initially, the District claimed it would take 7 months to produce the records (by law they have 22 days). After some back and forth, I obtained an Orifici invoice dated June 4 2014-1301 in the amount of $6,250.
Invoice 2014-1301 contains the following description of work performed:
Phase 1 Facility Studies and Planning:
- Review of 2010 Building Condition Survey, 2011-013 Annual Visual Inspection Reports, School Facilities Report Cards and current Voter approved 2014-15 Capital Budget.
- Assist the District in the organization and prioritizing of projected documented in the reports and visit each property with the Facilities Director to determine site conditions.
- Provide a prioritized listing of Capital Projects for 2014/15 and make recommendations to the Board of Education and Implementing remaining projects.
The work described in this invoice sounds remarkably similar to the “Orifici Report” which I have sought and which Osborne has repeatedly claimed does not exist.
Osborne has stated that there are only three documents per my past FOIL requests (the AVI Report, Review of 6 articles by Talk of the Sound on fraud in capital construction projects, CapProSoft report). He insists there is no fourth document, no “Orifici Report”.
If that really were the case then invoice 2014-1301 would be prima facie evidence of fraud by Mr. Orifici. Is that what Osborne and Orifici really wanted to say at this point? I doubt it.
Without actually possessing a copy of the report I have done my best to reasonably describe the report, the legal standard under FOIL. I have stated the report I seek entailed a sort of (lower-case) building condition survey. Invoice 2014-1301 describes Mr. Orifici touring buildings with John Gallagher of Aramark – as I have previously described. The invoice states that a prioritized list of capital projects was created. A list, as in a document, as in a public record. The invoice states that recommendations were made to the Board of Education which sounds a great deal like what I have described, that Mr. Orifici made a presentation to the School bBoard about the condition of the buildings and advised the board of which work needed to be done most urgently. I know this report was a couple of pages for each building, with 11 schools and two B&G buildings or about 13 buildings plus photos — so perhaps closer to 30 or 40 pages?
In any case, this is most definitely NOT the CapProSoft report which is just a 17-page long table generated by the CapProSoft software. A report where the data entry work was not even begun until September 2014. A report where data entry was not completed until November 2014. A report dated March 11, 2015, more than 8 months after Osborne and Orifici claim the report was presented to Osborne in July 2014.
From this, I have concluded that Dr. Osborne committed a criminal act in filing the denial of my appeal and that he repeatedly lied about a report that bears directly on the bond issue which I would otherwise support, while the board sat by, knowing he was lying, and said nothing.
Having established that the record I seek does exist, that Osborne and Orifici are lying about it and that Osborne has been willing to go so far as to risk jail time to do it — along with the end of his tenure as Schools Superintendent and, quite likely, his career, the question many ask is: “Why?”
I spelled that out in my speech at the Bond Input Forum on October 22nd. The report shows that Osborne knew of the dangerous condition at our schools but specifically about the roof at Daniel Webster Elementary School which was one of the highest priority items on the list. He was urged by everyone involved to move immediately to bond for the money needed to replace the roof at Webster before someone got hurt and he refused. He refused to do then precisely what he is doing now, a year later, after the boilers failed at Albert Leonard, after the ceiling collapsed at Barnard and, of course, the entire Webster School was taken offline and 550 people had to be relocated, at great expense, when the ceiling collapsed. His failure to act has cost the district millions of dollars while placing students and staff at Webster in imminent and direct peril.
The real question parents, student, staff and taxpayers should be asking is this: What reason did Schools Superintendent Dr. Brian Osborne give, in the Summer of 2014, for refusing to bond for the money during the 2014-15 school year, money needed to make urgent repairs to building which were not only determined to be unsafe but have since proven beyond all doubt to have been unsafe the entire time.
He does not want people to know what he knew in July 2014 because once they know that it begs the $64,000 question that everyone should ask:
“Dr. Osborne, what reason did you give for rejecting the advice of your entire team of experts?”