How Municipal Corruption Works in New Rochelle: A Case Study from the New Rochelle Board of Education's Painter-Working Foreman Part III

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A key component to the municipal corruption exists in New Rochelle is a lack of independent oversight, compliance and enforcement at the state level. We have already seen how local city officials like Mayor Noam Bramson, who appointed the Civil Service Commissioner Domenic Procopio, and City Manager Charles B. Strome, III, who hired Civil Service Administrator Jeanett Medina absolve themselves of responsibility for the function of the Municipal Civil Service Commission when it comes to civil service positions in the New Rochelle Board of Education by making a distinction between municipal and educational civil service positions, a distinction which does not exist either in the New York State Civil Service Commission or the New York State Constitution. We also see how Assistant Schools Superintendents John Quinn and Margaret Pecunia (retired as of this summer) bend, contort or simply ignore the civil service law. On numerous occasions Schools Superintendent Richard Organisciak has flat out lied to the school board members when it comes to civil service positions. None of this would be possible with out state officials turning a blind eye; the default position of a state official faced with a complaint at the local level is often to uncritically accept assertions made by local officials at the expense of a local complainant. Sometimes this is out of a desire at the state level not to ruffle feathers at the local level, sometimes out of a sort of bureaucratic sympathy and sometimes form sheer laziness. Whatever the cause, their lack of diligence in pursuing complaints coming from the local level serves to embolden corrupt officials at the local level.

The Municipal Civil Service Commission ("CSC") of the City of New Rochelle. The CSC sits in an entirely unique position, the only entity in New Rochelle that has a formal governmental function for both the City of New Rochelle and the City School District of New Rochelle. Anyone hired for any civil service position within the borders of the City of New Rochelle must go through the CSC. As a result, it is the Commissioner of the CSC alone who straddles both spheres of our local government. The local CSC is theoretically accountable to the City Manager, the Mayor of New Rochelle and the Superintendent of Schools, as well as, the New York State Civil Service Commission. In practice, due to a complete lack of oversight, transparency and accountability, the CSC has operated independently, led by its Chairman, Domenic Procopio and makes things up as it goes in order to place unqualified, connected people into positions in our twin governments; sometimes these are "no-show" positions with the clear suggestion that someone is being paid off somewhere.

Readers sometimes ask me why I do not take it upon myself to pursue legal redress for corrupt practices that I uncover in my reporting. My answer is that, generally, I do not see that as my role. My role is to gather the information and present it to the public. If someone then wants to formally act on that they can but I have neither the time nor inclination to do so. If I did I would be hard pressed to do any new reporting. Other people, so inclined, need to pick up the ball and run with it. Likewise, the victims of corruption need to stand up and be counted by filing grievances or lawsuits and demanding their civil and constitutional rights be protected.

Recently, one reader, John Imburgia, did just that. Mr. Imburgia read my recent articles on the corruption involving the Painter Working Foreman position in the New Rochelle school district. He contacted Robert L. Richardson of the New York State Department of Civil Service's Office of Commission Operations & Municipal Assistance. Mr. Imbrurgia forwarded me the resulting email exchange involving himself, Mr. Richardson and Jeanett Medina, the Civil Service Administrator for the Municipal Civil Service Commission of the City of New Rochelle. I was then asked to review and comment on the exchange, which I did in an email to Mr. Richardson:

Mr. Richardson,

A copy of this email exchange was forwarded to me by Mr. Imbrugia who asked me to review and comment as I have been covering corruption in the New Rochelle Civil Service Commission for the past few years and have become familiar with the pattern of behavior when it comes to civil service positions in the school district. The district has a track record of playing fast and loose with the New York State Civil Service law; the City has a track record of ignoring their obligations under the law when it comes to school district civil service positions.

In your email you have told Mr. Imbrugia "The year ago examination you refer to was cancelled. There was confusion and New Rochelle cancelled the examination because of it. Now that the confusion has been resolved, the examination has been reordered" and "The position was not reclassified nor were the minimum qualifications changed."

You cannot possibly be relying on the available documentation for this information because it entirely false to state that the June 2010 exam was cancelled and rescheduled due to "confusion" or that the minimum qualifications have not changed from last year to this year. Not only have they changed but they have changed in a way that makes the current holder of the position eligible for the position when he was not eligible for the position based on the job description announced in April 2010. Specifically, the current holder did not have then nor does he have now two years of supervisory experience. That requirement was removed in the version of the job description published in August 2011.

It is also knowingly false for Ms. Medina to claim that "meeting dates are always put up on our web page" and that "our meetings are open to the public." I am prepared to cite specific instances where meetings were held without any public announcements being made, where meetings took place behind closed and locked doors with no signage to indicate where the meeting was taking place or that it was ongoing.

Under FOIL I have obtained EVERY document from the City of New Rochelle regarding the position of Painter Working Foreman going back to January 1, 2009. There is a grand total of three.

1) I have a copy of the letter from Mr. John Gallagher dated April 2010 in which he directs that the June 2010 exam be cancelled on the grounds that no one signed up to take the exam. This letter was sent within a week of the posting of the exam, one month BEFORE the May 2010 deadline to register to take the exam and two months BEFORE the June 2010 test date.

2 & 3) I also have a copy of the exam notice posted in April 2010 and the exam notice posted August 2011. You have obviously not seen these documents because the minimum job requirement for the exam posted in August 2011 is NOT the same as that contained in the April 2010 exam notice. It was changed to remove the requirement that applicants need have 2 years of supervisory experience. This change is significant because Mr. Anthony Paganico did not have, nor does have now, 2 years of supervisory experience. The job description has been altered to the benefit of Mr. Paganico who is now eligible for a position he was not eligible for when announced in April 2010.

There is also the issue of the person who requested the cancellation of the exam in April 2010. Mr. Gallagher is neither an employee of the City of New Rochelle or the City School District of New Rochelle. He is a private contractor. No explanation has ever been provided as to the basis on which a private contractor would have the legal authority to request the cancellation of a scheduled civil service exam. Likewise, I am unaware of any legal basis on which the New Rochelle Civil Service Commission would act upon an unauthorized letter from a private contractor.

There is a great deal more to this story including threats of violence against district employees and a campaign by two individuals to discourage anyone other than Mr. Paganico from taking the exam in October 2011. The desire of certain officials to see to it that Mr. Paganico gets this position is the sole basis for the so-called "confusion" you have referenced.

I would direct you to two New Rochelle Board of Education resolutions related to the Painter Working Foreman position and contract them to your claim that "The year ago examination you refer to (June 2010) was cancelled. There was confusion and New Rochelle cancelled the examination because of it. Now that the confusion has been resolved, the examination has been reordered."

On November 4, 2009, the New Rochelle Board of Education passed RESOLUTION No. 1-136-2:

RESOLUTION No. 1-136-2
PROVISIONAL APPOINTMENT
PAINTER-WORKING FOREMAN

RESOLVED, that the provisional appointment of Anthony Paganico from Painter to Painter-Working Foreman (repl. Ronald Perri, retired) with appropriate salary adjustment, Grade 15, Step 2, $67,127 plus S16 $14,312 per annum be and hereby is approved effective September 26, 2009 with such appointment to be subject to the required civil service examination.

RESOLVED, that Anthony Paganico be granted a leave of absence without salary from his permanent position during the period of this provisional appointment.

On June 7, 20110, the New Rochelle Board of Education approved RESOLUTION No. 11-348-7 on June 7, 2011 making Paganico permanent in the position of Painter-Working Foreman.

RESOLUTION No. 11-348-7
PROBATIONARY/PERMANENT APPOINTMENT - BUILDINGS & GROUNDS

RESOLVED, that having been approved by the Municipal Civil Service Commission for a promotional probationary appointment effective April 15, 2010 that Anthony Paganico, Painter-Working Foreman Grade 15, Step 16, $87,109 per annum and hereby is approved; and, be it further

RESOLVED, that Anthony Paganico, Painter-Working Foreman, having served the require probationary period, be appointed permanent, be and hereby is approved effective June 10, 2010.

As is clear, as of June 10, 2011, the New Rochelle Board of Education and the New Rochelle Civil Service Commissioner considered this a closed matter. The Municipal Civil Service Commission "approved" Paganico "for a promotional probationary appointment effective April 15, 2010". Note, this is the week AFTER the June 2010 exam notice was posted by the Municipal Civil Service Commission, the same week as Gallagher's letter directing that the exam be cancelled and in direct violation of the resolution passed by the New Rochelle Board of Education in November 2009. On June 7, 2011, the board resolved that Paganico "be appointed permanent" to the position of Painter-Working Foreman.

There was NO CONFUSION as of June 7th, 2011. Paganico was, according to the New Rochelle Board of Education and the Municipal Civil Service Commission, "approved" and "resolved" as permanent in the position of Painter-Working Foreman.

So, what changed?

I would submit to you that what changed was that I published an article -- and discussed it on my local radio show -- in which I explained to the public the effort by local government officials to place Paganico in a position for which he was not eligible. I commend the article to your attention.

How Municipal Corruption Works in New Rochelle: A Case Study from the New Rochelle Board of Education's Painter-Working Foreman Part I

I then wrote a follow up article after the October 2011 exam was noticed.

How Municipal Corruption Works in New Rochelle: A Case Study from the New Rochelle Board of Education's Painter-Working Foreman Part II

The information you have provided to Mr. Imbrugia is false. I would have no trouble believing that the reason for that is that false information was provided to you by officials here in New Rochelle. It would hardly be the first time that local government officials have misled state officials . In fact, I believe that false information was provided to the school board members which is the reason, I suspect, that after my article exposed what was going on here, a new exam was ordered.

I think you should also be aware that district employees have been threatened with job retaliation including termination and bodily harm if they sit to take this exam in October. I myself was approached by a district employee and physically threatened in a grocery store parking just last week. I believe this person was upset about my two articles on this subject and the implications for his having had the pleasure of what amounts to a no-show job which would be threatened if Mr. Paganico does not retain the position of Painter-Working Foreman.

Do with this information what you will but I would ask you to desist from providing Mr. Imbrugia false information regarding the New Rochelle Civil Service Commission without having obtained for yourself the relevant documents from the City of New Rochelle and the New Rochelle Board of Education.

Thank you,

Robert Cox
Managing Editor
New Rochelle's Talk of the Sound

Host & Producer
Talk of the Sound Radio
Blog Talk Radio Friday 11a - 12p & podcast

Commenting on this Blog entry is closed.

NewRo10804 on Tue, 08/30/2011 - 23:06
Title: BOE Pt III

Thank you Mr.Cox- great letter. Let's hope something will be done. Hopefully sooner than later!