For one night anyway, justice prevailed at a New Rochelle Board of Education meeting as an attempt to subvert the New York State civil service law was stopped...for now. Past being prologue, residents can rest assured that like a vampire rising from the grave, this resolution will be tweaked and then brought forward again, most likely at the next BoE meeting scheduled for December 7th.
Schools Superintendent Richard Organisciak had sought to bring forward a resolution that would have authorized him to submit a waiver request to the New York State Civil Service Commission. The resolution was the result of a month long effort to concoct yet another pretext to keep Rolf Koehler on the BoE payroll as a security administrator despite having failed to pass a civil service exam last February.
Normally, the BoE meets as the Committee of the Whole to review draft resolutions, have discussion, provide a chance for board members to ask questions and for the public to have an opportunity to comment. In this case, the board added a Special Meeting to immediately follow the Committee of the Whole Meeting. The only purpose of the meeting was to vote on Resolution No. 11-183 (the Koehler Resolution). At no point prior to the meeting was the public informed of the Special Meeting, Board members only found out about that afternoon, same for the resolution.
In a bit of high drama, no board members asked to speak when 11-183 was read out during the reading of the draft resolutions. After reading the entire list, BoE Member Jeffrey Hastie asked to speak on 11-183. He express his concern about the way the resolution was brought forward and asked several questions. BoE Member Lianne Merchant chimed in as well. Hastie then asked when the civil service exam described in the resolution would be given. Schools Superintendent Richard Organisciak, obviously displeased at getting any questions about the resolution, balked before stating an exam would be given sometime in the Spring. Why it would take four to six months to schedule an exam was not explained.
[NOTE: The New York State Civil Service Commission states the next scheduled competitive examination for the "Safety and Security Series" is February 2011.]
Your humble correspondent asked to address the board (the video should be on Channel 77 this weekend) so let me switch to first person here for a moment.
I asked the board to consider how many times they had been asked to pass a resolution for waiver for Rolf Koehler over the past 14 months.. I reminded them that on 9/29/09, the board had passed a resolution for a 211 waiver similar to 11-183 which stated that a requirement for the position was having served with the New Rochelle Police Department. The position title was "School Security Officer". I reminded the board I had come back at the next meeting to inform them that Rolf Koehler never served with the NRPD but rather the New York Police Department. The resolution was re-drafted and approved by the board.
I re-hashed the research I did on 211 waivers back in 2009 when they first passed their phony 211 waiver resolutions:
On 9/29, the BoE passed resolution 10-110 regarding 211 waivers for Bruce Daniele, Robert Coyne and Rolf Koehler. The criteria laid out in the resolution do not comport with the Post-October 7, 2008 Statutory Criteria for 211 Waivers because the district has not prepared a detailed recruitment plan for these positions or undertaken extensive recruitment efforts. The district has not demonstrated that there is an urgent need for their services. The vacancies they filled are not unplanned, unpredictable, or unexpected nor are thee appointments being treated as non-permanent as they appear to be the final filling of the position. It is hard to imagine in the current job market there are NO available, qualified non-retirees.
At its meeting of November 18, 2009, the New York State Civil Service Commission approved a section 211 waiver for Koehler for the period June 1, 2009 to June 30, 2010 with the stipulation that the City of New Rochelle Civil Service Commission conduct an examination. This came about because the NYSCSC had previously determined that the district had failed to file the necessary paperwork for Koehler, Robert Coyne and their boss, Bruce Danielle several years earlier when they were hired. The exact details are unclear because the BoE has declined to explain exactly what happened. In any case, the three resolutions were bought forward. Under the resolutions, Rolf Koehler was required to take a competitive civil service exam. In the meantime, until all the niceties were addressed, the district was given a waiver for the three security administrators until the end of the school year (June, 2010) including Koehler.
I pointed out that, according to the web site of the New York State Civil Service Commission did give the exam on February 6, 2010.
I told the Board that the NYSCSC report says 12 candidates passed the open-competitive examination. I told the board that my sources tell me that Koehler was not one of the 12 who passed the examination. Regardless, of the four "reachable" candidates, three were "non-retirees" and therefore would be above Koehler on the list. The eligible list was established on May 12, 2010. Koehler was not on it. The BoE was supposed to pick from among the top three candidates. They never did.
Instead, the BoE approved the creation of a new security title called "Director of Surveillance" and then approved appointing Koehler to that position using yet another temporary waiver limited through until 10/31/10. October 30, 2010 was to be Koehlher's last day but at the last minute he was given a leave of absences until 12/31/10. Asked last night about this by Lianne Merchant, Organisciak said the leave was granted for "personal reasons". The only "personal reason" was that Koehler was no longer eligible to work for the district one his waiver expired.
I then asked the Board what made Rolf Koehler so important that the Board of Education would go through all sorts of contortions to keep him on the payroll. Koehler had been given an opportunity to pass the test and failed. He had used up multiple waivers. He was now being given what amounted to a fourth or fifth or even sixth bite at the apple. I said the board should ask why they are being asked to do this? I then pointed out that they were certainly going to be dealing with a complaint to the New York State Civil Service Commission because I was going to personally file the complaint. I told them I also expected their would be complaints filed with the Department of Labor and quite likely litigation from the 12 people who passed the exam, possible any who took the exam, and very likely those on the eligible list who were all passed over in favor over Koehler who failed the exam.
I finished by asking the BoE not to vote that night and to take time to gather facts and get answers to these and other questions.
Before I had returned to my seat, BoE President Sara Richmond asked for a motion to go into executive session to discuss a "personnel matter". That they would go into a secret meeting to discuss a public resolution was bizarre but off they went....for about two hours. At about 10 PM, Richmond returned with several board members. Realizing they did not have a quorum she made a quorum call until six board members were seated. It was only at that point that Richmond asked for a motion to cancel the Special Meeting to vote on Resolution 11-183 and then, oddly, asked to adjourn again for yet another executive session, this time to discuss a matter of pending litigation. Assured that they would not be coming back into session, I left.
This event last night brought together many of the key players in the corruption that goes on in New Rochelle and provides a road map on how these people operate. For whatever reason, Bruce Danielle wants Rolf Koehler to work for him regardless of the civil service law, a law for which he appears to have about as much respect as he has for the state's gambling and pornography laws. He is going to do whatever it takes to make that happen. He brought in Domenic Procopio, Marty Daly, and Richard Organisciak, among others. They sat in a closed room figuring how to get around the law to suit their purposes without the slightest concern that their actions were making a mockery of the civil service law and yet another tax-payer funded rip-off which might well expose the district to litigation. They spring their resolution on the Board of Education at the last minute, fail to make a public announcement of the Special Meeting, fail to publish an Order of Business on their as they normally do and otherwise do all they can to slip the resolution through without any noticing.
Readers should take a good look at Resolution No. 11-183. Here are a few highlights with my comments.
The School District has heretofore employed Rolf Koehler pursuant to waivers granted by the New York State Department of Civil Service - note the use of the plural waivers.
The City of New Rochelle Civil Service Commission has approved the creation of the position of School Security Specialist - is this the same New Rochelle Civil Service Commission that created the position of "School Security Officer" just a year ago?
The City of New Rochelle Civil Service Commission has requested that an appropriate competitive examination be developed and administered - you mean like the one they gave on February 6th, 2010?
The interests of students, staff and the public are best served when the School District's security operations are managed by security
professionals with an extensive background in local law enforcement and intimately familiar with the community and schools of the City of New Rochelle - if this is the case how was Koehler hired in the first place? He worked for the NYPD nor NRPD. And why cannot someone with a private security background be effective? And what about people with law enforcement in other areas of the country or working for the State Police or even the FBI? Are they not qualified? This is little more than a jobs program for retired NRPD officers and their pals, something that serves their interests and the BoE which can use the lure of future double-dipping employment to keep police inline and out of the schools.
Mr. Koehler was initially recruited for employment based upon his demonstrated knowledge of and involvement with the School District's schools by reason of his prior service as a police officer - again, Koehler worked for the NYPD so how does this line in the resolution even make sense. The exact opposite is the case.
The resolution ends in much the same the resolutions in 2009 ended, "the Board of Education finds it would be in the interest of the School District provisionally to appoint Mr. Koehler to the position of School Security pending the administration of a competitive examination as aforesaid and the receipt of an eligible list from the City of New Rochelle Civil Service Commission..." Except that they did this very thing last year and ignored it. Also, "The Board of Education supports the submission by the Superintendent of Schools of a waiver request to the Superintendent of the New York State Civil Service Commission pursuant to Retirement and Social Security §211 for Rolf Koehler" even though this application is not allowed under the Post-October 7, 2008 Statutory Criteria for 211 Waivers.
Of course, the real point is in the last line: "RESOLVED that this resolution shall take effect immediately."
The plan was to ram this through at the last minute without Board members, the public or the 12 people who passed the test, especially those on the eligible list knowing about it until it was all over and Rolf Koehler was back on the payroll with yet another temporary appointment based on a phony application for a 211 waiver.
If putting an end to corruption interests you, please consider taking a few moments to send an email to the Board of Education clerk to request your permitted 5 minutes of speaking time (if you show up without reservations they can limit you to 3 minutes). If you do not wish to speak, at least come bare silent witness to the fraud being perpetrated by Schools Superintendent Richard Organisciak and his cronies along with the connivance of some BoE members.
Email New Rochelle Board of Education Clerk to request to speak at the next Board Meeting on December 7, 2010 -- another day that will live in infamy if this resolution is somehow passed.