EDITOR'S NOTE: We would like to obtain a photo of Werner Graefe, if you have one or two please send them to [email protected]
NEW ROCHELLE, NY -- Werner Graefe, a locksmith for the City School District of New Rochelle was suspended Thursday for 30 days without pay pending an Article 75 hearing, a civil service proceeding for removal and other disciplinary action. He is expected to be terminated as a result.
Sources tell Talk of the Sound, Graefe was found to have left work after punching back in after lunch - stealing time. There are other reports that he was insubordinate, refusing to wear the new departmental uniforms for Buildings & Grounds.
Those familiar with the matter say that the District brought in an outside locksmith to change the locks on the doors to the locksmith’s office. In the office, at New Rochelle High School, school officials came across equipment to make keys of a type not used anywhere in the school district.
For years, Graefe has been the subject of past investigations into misconduct based on information that he operated his privately-owned locksmith business, Schimoler's Locksmith in Mount Vernon, out of New Rochelle High School with his brother Eric. His father Eduard, who passed away in 2013, was said to have had a similar set up.
EDITOR’S NOTE: In the past we have reported that Eduard Graefe was a partner in a local locksmith business in New Rochelle. The owner of the business tells Talk of the Sound that Eduard Graefe ceased being his partner after he left to go to work for the City School District of New Rochelle over 20 years ago. The owner says he has nothing to do with the Graefes.
The father and son, for years, are said to have ordered locksmith supplies on a District account, had the supplies shipped to New Rochelle High School, then taken the supplies back to their respective private businesses and either sold them to private clients or back to the school district itself. All of this done with the blessing of John Gallagher of Aramark, the District’s former Facilities Director, currently under federal indictment for taking bribes. Gallagher has plead “not guilty”.
School officials have been aware for years of reports that Werner Graefe would leave school early during the work day to go to area bars and restaurants to consume alcohol (Fratellis, Dudley's Parkview, Piper's Kilt and others).
His most frequent drinking partner was said to be John Gallagher, now under Federal Indictment for his role in a bribery and kickback scheme involving Mauro Zonzini, a former member of the board of the New Rochelle Police Foundation. Graefe is said to have provided door and lock hardware supplies and performed the installation on John Gallagher's personal residences over the years. Graefe is said to have for years used fake invoices to siphon off and split excess budget money with Gallagher.
Over the past year, Graefe was caught bringing Werner Graefe (junior) his adult son to work in his office at New Rochelle High School. He typically walked in empty-handed and walked out laden with boxes. He accompanied his father on jobs throughout the school district, riding in district work vans. His son is not a District employee. He did not have a criminal background check or security clearance to be in the building. Graefe was warned several times to stop bringing his son to work and ultimately he did stop.
Graefe is divorced. In the divorce proceedings Graefe admitted to certain conduct that led County Court Judge Robert K. Holdman to revoke Graefe's license to possess a pistol or revolver. Graefe filed an appeal with the Appellate Division, Second Department. On June 7, 2011, the appeal was denied on the grounds that the evidence credited by Graefe supports the conclusion that the petitioner “does not possess the moral character or temperament necessary to possess a firearm”.
Over the years we have written many times about corruption involving Werner Graefe. It is not just corruption involving Werner Graefe (and his father and son) as a locksmith but that there is a locksmith position in the school district at all. In 2009, after lobbying of board members by Robert Cox, the board directed Schools Superintendent Richard Organisciak to eliminate the two locksmith positions for Eduard and Werner Graefe. Months later, Organisciak informed the board that John Gallagher deemed the position of locksmith “necessary” and so he was reinstating one of the locksmith positions, Eduard Graefe would retire and the remaining position would be filled by Werner Graefe. In short, Graefe was terminated 8 years ago but through the intervention of John Gallagher, John Quinn and Richard Organisciak and the acquiesence of a spineless school board he was brought back and allowed to continued to defraud the school district since 2009.
Here are a few excerpts from past Talk of the Sound articles from 2009 to 2017:
In a gross misuse of funds, the City School District shells out a whooping $153,667 a year for two positions of locksmith. Eduard and Werner Graefe (yes you guessed it, they are father and son) both hold the title of "Master Locksmith" (someone define that for me please). Eduard, hired to the position in 1986, rakes in a grand total of $82,000+. Werner (Warner) comes in at just under $72,000.
How can the BOE justify paying these salaries? Years ago changing locks and things of the like were handled by the carpenters. Would the District not save a large sum of money by having an outside company perform the same duties? And if it's a Union issue, then why have TWO positions? One person to hold the screw gun while the other pushes?
Like vampires, obsolete Buildings & Grounds positions have a nasty habit of coming back from the dead. Case in point -- the previously eliminated position of locksmith has now be reinstated by the New Rochelle school board because, get this, Schools Superintendent Richard Organisciak says that John Gallagher says the position of locksmith is "definitely needed". Readers will recall this is the same Organisciak who has been got caught red-handed in lie after lie telling the school board to take his word that the same Gallagher who allowed school vans, trucks and even HVAC engineers to go missing on his watch has given him his word that the district definitely needs a locksmith.
- Resolution 10-82 Reinstates Locksmith position
- Resolution 10-81 Accepts the Resignation of Master Locksmith Edward Graefe
Readers will recall that the school board moved quickly to eliminate the position of Master Locksmith and Locksmith after Talk of the Sound reported on the father-son team that was raking in a call $153,667 a year for working as full-time locksmiths while having a partial ownership interest in locksmith companies that do business with the district.
There have been reports here of a similar arrangement involving locksmiths Eduard and Werner Graefe whereby they are doing business with the district via "entities owned and/or controlled by" the father and son team.
After Talk of the Sound reported that New Rochelle was funding two obsolete locksmith positions to the tune of $154,000 a year, the two positions were terminated. Two months later, Edouard Graefe was allowed to retire with his full pension and Werner, his son, was re-instated. because John Gallagher, the same guy who was paying Vito Costa for his no-show job told Schools Superintendent Richard Organisciak that it was "necessary" to have a full-time locksmith on staff. Necessary for whom, Organsiciak did not say but certainly not for the taxpayers of New Rochelle who have been funding no-show jobs for years.
To put this in context, the district owns 10 school buildings and a building on Grove Street. Generally, locksmiths will only handle issues directly related to locks. For the casing, some sort of handyman, someone who specializes in doors, or a security specialist does this work. A security specialist is not the same thing as a locksmith. In New Rochelle, sources tell Talk of the Sound that union carpenters install locks whereas locksmiths are responsible for picking locks and making keys.
Webster Magnet School has 18 classrooms, some offices, closets and outside doors. So, let's say that each elementary school has 50 doors with locks and maybe the middle schools have 80 and the high school has 150. As a ballpark, let's say there are 700 locks on doors in all buildings owned by the school district.
It costs less than $1.00 to make a key.
A locksmith will charge about $100 to come and pick a lock if you are locked out of your office or home.
It would have been cheaper to hire an outside contractor to pick EVERY LOCK in the school district once a year and make 100,000 keys than to pay the Graefes their salary -- leaving aside benefits and the generous pension Graefe, Sr. is now getting.
Today we are paying just Graefe, Jr. about $75,000 a year plus benefits plus providing a pension. As the district continues to whine and moan about mid-year budget cuts, this particular employ is paid tens of thousands of dollars a year more than it would cost to simply hire his company in Mount Vernon as a private contractor.
Werner Graefe, the locksmith, parks his work van at the high school and leaves early as a matter of routine — mostly to run Schimolers Locksmith at 15 South 3rd Avenue in Mount Vernon, the private locksmith business he owns. Graefe’s father was also a locksmith for the district up until his recent death (New Rochelle does not need a full-time locksmith but for many years had two!). The senior Graefe was a partner in Jacobs Lock Company at 685 Main Street in New Rochelle prior to working for the District.
This was a great deal for all concerned — the Graefe’s were paid for not working, paid while they operated their private businesses and, for a kicker, used their private businesses to sell supplies to the district which they then stole and sold from their private businesses. Several years ago when I raised this issue, the school board took it up with the result that the board voted to fire the two locksmiths. At the next meeting Schools Superintendent Richard Organisciak declared that the locksmith’s were “necessary” and without a whimper the board re-instated them. It’s important to realize that locksmith’s do not install locks — that is done by carpenters when they install doors. Locksmith’s might replace some locks but mostly they would make keys. How many keys are lost or broken each day that would there would be a need for a full-time locksmith, let alone two?
Graefe the Younger stops working at 11:30 a.m. He parks his work van in the backlot at New Rochelle High School (the one in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act because there is no handicapped parking) and heads down to Mount Vernon or, when Gallagher was still working in New Rochelle, would join John Gallagher for a “liquid lunch” at Fratellis on East Main Street. This I observed personally and reported to the district in real-time. Nothing was done about it. Gallagher ordered supplies from the two locksmith companies connected to the Graefes where lots of extra stuff was ordered and then kept by the Graefes or their private business.
District Buildings & Grounds Employees Called on the Carpet
At least five New Rochelle Board of Education employees received letters instructing them to appear at City Hall, with legal representation, to discuss matters pertaining to an ongoing corruption investigation. James Bonanno, Sr. (a working-foreman in the grounds department), Anthony Raffa (plumber), Werner Graefe (locksmith), Louis Apicella (painter) and James Bonanno, Jr. (a delivery van driver) have been the subject of an investigation by Vigilant Resources International that began last spring. The five are part of a group of approximately two dozen cases files developed by VRI.
In December, Jimmy Bonanno and Anthony Raffa were suspended for 30 days with pay. In January, when the 30 days expired, the pair were put on administrative leave and three other people were brought in to meet with Assistant to the Superintendent for HR, Joe Williams and Jeffrey Kehl, the district’s attorney. Little Jimmy Bonanno, Louis Apicella and Werner Greafe were accompanied by Marty Daly of FUSE and Eric Marshall, a union attorney.
Last week, four of the five were notified of disciplinary action against them. Anthony Raffa received a suspension with 30 days no pay and a referral to a Section 75 hearing. Jimmy Bonanno received a suspension with 30 days no pay. Louis Apicella received a suspension with 15 days no pay. Little Jimmy Bonanno is to be docked $100 pay. Werner Graefe got nothing.
At New Rochelle High School, there are four private offices. One locked room is controlled by Werner Graefe, the locksmith. He has an entire locksmith shop. For years, he and his father, Edward Graefe, ran their private locksmithing business out of the high school. The younger Graefe owns Schimolers Locksmith in Mount Vernon.