The primary route through which municipal corruption exists in New Rochelle is 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
It is through Procopio and the CSC that the "friends and family" network is able to place unqualified people on the City of New Rochelle or City School District of New Rochelle payroll, fill positions without advertising open positions and exams, obtain promotions without holding civil service exams, or fill positions without selecting candidates from the "eligibility" list. Under New York State Civil Service law a position must be filled by selecting a candidate from among the top three highest scoring eligible candidates on the appropriate civil service exam, a requirement that many candidates have found "inconvenient".
Many of the people given jobs through the "friends and family" network actually show up and work. Some do not. Those who do not are holding what are referred to as "no show" jobs. Typically, these are people who either run a side business while "on the clock" for the City or School District and kickback money in return. Some of these people, however, are involved in illegal activity ranging from gambling, to loan sharking, to drug dealing, or worse. These are people with illicit incomes that need to show a "visible means of support" to justify to tax authorities their affluent lifestyle -- owning an expensive, well-appointed home (or two, or three) driving an expensive vehicle, taking expensive vacations and so forth.
The person running the Civil Service Commission is Domenic Procopio who, for almost a decade, pocketed tens of thousands of dollars in tax exemptions intended for combat veterans and homeowners. When Talk of the Sound reported Procopio's money grab, City officials including Mayor Noam Bramson, City Manager Chuck Strome and City Tax Assessor "Chip" Perone excused Procopio on the grounds that he was, in order, "doing a great job", was the victim of a "clerical error", "did not understand the annual tax exemption letters". Under pressure from this publication, the City did require Procopio to repay the money he pocketed using the illegal combat veteran exemptions but did not seek the far larger amounts obtained under an illegal STAR exemption. Perone stated, falsely, that only New York State could pursue illegal STAR exemptions. In fact, New York State law requires that the local tax assessor and only the local tax accessor pursue the return of illegal STAR exemptions. That money was never reimbursed by Procopio. Soon after Talk of the Sound exposed Procopio's illegal tax exemptions he placed the house at 7 Pinebrook Road on the market.
Mr. Procopio, President of the Casa Calabria, a non-profit Italian-American organization headquartered in the West End of New Rochelle, is considered by some local politicians, speaking on background, as "untouchable". For years he has lunched regularly at Mamma Francescas' restaurant on Pelham Road with powerful people such as former New Rochelle Mayor and current Westchester County Clerk Timothy Idoni and New Rochelle Police Commissioner Patrick Carroll. Many people in New Rochelle have great affection for Procopio, a man who has, through his public office, doled out many favors.
Talk of the Sound has documented numerous examples of public corruption involving Mr. Procopio ranging from holding secret meetings of the Municipal Civil Service Commission to taking illegal tax exemptions intended for Combat Veterans, to approving illegal 211 waivers to allow public employees to "double dip" while receiving state pensions, to manufacturing job descriptions tailored to specific individuals (a felony under New York State law), ignoring posted eligibility lists, reporting false information to the New York State Civil Service Commission and more. Despite this (or because of this), Procopio continues to hold the position of Chairman of the Municipal Service Commission.
Procopio never served in the military let alone saw combat.
Much of the corruption involves school district positions, primarily in the Security Department under Bruce Danielle and in the Buildings and Grounds department under John Gallagher and his lieutenants, Jimmy Bonanno and Anthony Rigos, all of whom report to Assistant Superintendent for Business John Quinn, who in return reports to Schools Superintendent Richard Organisciak and up to the New Rochelle Board of Education.
A resolution passed by the Board of Education at their last meeting on June 7th provides a textbook illustration of how municipal corruption works in New Rochelle and how unwitting school board members are bamboozled into approving resolutions they do not understand to provide cover for corrupt public officials.
In 2009, Ronald Perri retired from the Board of Education. His last position with the district was "Painter-Working Foreman". The position was filled on a provisional basis by Anthony Paganico, another painter working for the district. Paganico had a family connection to Procopio and was considered "reliable". Not reliable as a worker but reliable as someone who would be accommodating to Procopio and certain people in the Buildings & Grounds department who were working "no show" jobs, stealing time, getting paid overtime they did not earn or engaged in misappropriation of school equipment and theft of supplies. Over the past two years, Paganico has proved his worth to the powers-that-be in this web of corruption and was recently rewarded with a supposed recommendation from the Municipal Civil Service Commission to the Board of Education that his promotion be made permanent.
Paganico was ineligible for the position based on the job description requirements. He never applied to the take the required Civil Service Exam. He never passed the exam. There was never any recommendation made by the Municipal Civil Service Commission regarding the Painter-Working Foreman position based on a review of records under FOIL going back to January 1st, 2009.
So, how did it come to pass that earlier this month the New Rochelle Board of Education was asked to approve, and did, making Paganico permanent in a position he should have never had in the first place?
On October 28, 2009, after Perri retired, a State Examination for the Painter-Working Foreman position was ordered. Then Civil Service Administrator Beverly Silverman, set to retire herself at the end of the year, drafted the notice and posted it at City Hall and at locations throughout New Rochelle including school buildings. Upon learning that the State Exam for "his" position was being advertised, Paganico became enraged. He went to City Hall and confronted Silverman and, in a heated exchange, demanded that the exam notices be removed immediately. Paganico sought and received support from Domenic Procopio and John Gallagher, Director of Environmental Services for the City School District of New Rochelle, but in reality a private contractor working for a company called Service Master. Silverman objected but the exam notices were taken down. Potential applicants within the district were warned by supervisors not to apply for the exam and threatened with retaliation if they applied to take the examination.
Presumably unaware of any of this, on November 4, 2009, the Board of Education passed RESOLUTION No. 1-136-2:
RESOLUTION No. 1-136-2
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.
Under RESOLUTION No. 1-136-2, Paganico received a grade/step increase along with a corresponding increase in salary under the condition that the promotion was "subject to the required civil service examination".
On April 9th, 2010, a new announcement for the "Painter-Working Foreman" State Examination was drafted. The date of the test was scheduled for June 10, 2010 with a filing deadline of May 10, 2010.
Although the filing deadline to take the examination was May 10, 2010, the Director of Environmental Services for the City School District of New Rochelle, John Gallagher, sent a letter to the Civil Service Commission on April 15, 2010 requesting the Painter-Working Foreman Examination #76-531 #2298 scheduled for June 20th be cancelled. Gallagher wrote "We do not require a need for this exam".
A FOIL request for CSC records by Talk of the Sound (below) dated June, 2011 yielded two documents: (1) a notice of the Painter-Working Foreman Examination #76-531 #2298 dated 4/9/2010 with a line drawn through the number 76-531 and, by hand, the number 77-384 below the number 76-531 and; (2) the Gallagher memo dated April 10, 2010 requesting the test be cancelled.
I would like to get copies of all public records related to Civil Service Exams for positions related to Painters and Painter Working Foreman or similar positions from January 1, 2009 until today. This would include but not exclusively exam announcements, application forms, list of applicants/eligibility lists.
In addition, the City of New Rochelle provided the following information from the Civil Service Commission:
"A test for the Painter working foreman was ordered on 10/28/2009 and a test announcement was issued on 4/9/2010. On 4/15/2010 the Board of Education requested that the examination be cancelled and as no one had applied for the examination, a request to cancel the exam was sent to the State and the test announcement was withdrawn."
Again, the filing deadline to take the examination was May 10th, 2010 but Gallagher is requesting the exam be cancelled on April 15th, less than a week after the notice was posted and four weeks before the filing deadline, on the grounds that "no one had applied for the examination" something that could not be known until May 11th, 2010.
The Painter-Working Foreman job description posted in the exam notice on April 9th, 2010 sets forth various minimum qualifications including "Five years of experience as a journeyman painter of which two years must have been in a supervisory capacity". Paganico has no supervisory experience and was thus ineligible to apply for the position.
The exam was ordered on October 28, 2009 but, according to the CSC response to the FOIL request no notice was drafted until April 9th, 2011, just a month before the deadline to apply to take the exam in June. Why would the CSC wait more than 6 months to advertise the exam? They did not; the exam was advertised months earlier but the signs were ripped down.
Gallagher is not an employee of the school district and, even if he was, he would be a department head not a human resources officer. Under what authority is a department head permitted to cancel a scheduled competitive Civil Service exam? Why did the CSC accept this request from Gallagher? Why did the request not go through normal channels?
Despite Paganico not being eligible for the position, despite not having taken the exam, despite not having passed the exam or been placed on the eligibility list, 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.
The resolution states the basis for making the promotion permanent is he was "approved by the Municipal Civil Service Commission for a promotional probationary appointment effective April 15, 2010". The only public records available are the exam notice and Gallagher's letter, also dated April 15, 2010, requesting the exam be cancelled. There are no documents from the Municipal Civil Service Commission that even name Anthony Paganico let alone approve him for any appointment.
The question for the honest, hard-working taxpayers and residents of New Rochelle to consider is why would so many people violate New York State law or otherwise participate in a scheme to place Anthony Paganico in a position for which he was never eligible. One thing is for sure, this is not an "isolated incident".
More to be revealed...
Section 175 on "Appointment of Commissioners" reads "The members of the Municipal Civil Service Commission as prescribed by law shall be appointed by the Mayor."
The entire section of the relevant portion of the City Charter follows:
Section 173 Municipal Civil Service Commission – 59 – The Municipal Civil Service Commission shall be constituted as prescribed by law and shall elect one of its members President. The members of the Commission who are in office when this Charter takes effect shall be the members of the Commission (subject to the power of removal as prescribed by law) until the expiration of their terms of office and until their successors are appointed and qualify. Their compensation shall be fixed by the Council.
Section 174 Secretary and employees