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New Rochelle Board of Education: Criminal Enterprise Masquerading as an Educational Institution - Part XIII

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New Rochelle Board of Education: Criminal Enterprise Masquerading as an Educational Institution - Part XIII

February 28, 2015 - 00:24
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This is Part XIII in a Series.

That Zayac story was monstrously long so I am going to offer up a short one on corruption involving the Athletic Department in New Rochelle. It has come onto my radar many times is various schemes by district employees to make money off the athletic program in the New Rochelle schools. I may expand on some of these stories later.

I heard one story about a federal grant obtained by the school district to supply athletic equipment where a person associated with the district set up a dummy corporation, became an approved vendor to the district and became the main supplier of the equipment back to the district. I heard another story about employees in the athletic department installing soda machines near the boys locker room at the high school, stocking the soda themselves and pocketing the money from soda sales.  I was told how baseball coaches required parents to pay to place their players on the Braves baseball team run by the coaches or their children would not be allowed on the high school baseball team. I have heard stories about questionable wrestling tournament fees, cash sales of food and drinks at events with no accounting for the money, large-scale fundraising related to the cheerleading program, a football camp run by Coach DeRienzo.

This is on top of ineligible players on the soccer and football teams that I’ve written about in the past.

I have already written how Kip Fierro, the coach of the New Rochelle High School swim team and an owner of the Badger Swim Club, got a sweetheart deal — free use of the pool for over a decade for his Badger Swim Club, along with free custodial services and security — to run his for-profit swimming program at taxpayer expense. The going rate for the use of a pool in Westchester is between $150 and $200 an hour; after 12 years of being charged nothing was charged a nominal fee of $20,000 a year or about $26 an hour. If $20,000 a year was fair market value then Badger was saved almost a quarter-million dollars over the first 12 years. The going rate is actually much higher than $20,000 and so taxpayers are subsidizing a for-profit business.

What not everyone seems to understand is that it is not simply that various sports programs are being subsidized but that there is a strong incentive — and a high likelihood in my view — that coaches, athletic directors, building principals, custodians and others are on the take. They also don't understand that when you do not run these programs on the up and up you expose the district to legal liabiity -- it is why permits are supposed to include liability insurance.

One instance involved Jimmy Bonanno so while I had him under oath I decided to take the opportunity to see what he had to say. The story I was told was that a basketball coach named Gary Lynn was running a for-profit private basketball program for adults out of the gymnasium at Davis Elementary School. I was told that he paid Tony Sinkfield under the table, that Sinkfield gave Lynn a key and that former Principal Bill Harrell was aware of this arrangement. So I asked Jimmy what he knew.

Deposition of Vincent James Bonanno by Robert Cox, Pro Se

October 14, 2013

Q. …You know the name Gary Lynn?

A. Yes.

Q. How do you know Gary Lynn?

A. He runs a camp at Davis school.

Q. And beyond that, how do you know him?

A. I don't know him, I think when he was really younger, I'm not even sure if it was him, he had a store in the mall.

Q. What's your familiarity with this camp at this Davis school?

A. I don't know too much about it, I think it is a private camp, they told me it is not, so I just left it alone.

Q. I couldn't quite hear. Could you state that again. I couldn't quite hear it.

A. I think it's a private camp he runs out of the school, but I don't know that.

Q. Who told you to leave it alone?

A. I went up there on a Saturday once and when I went in the building, they were very, like, nervous why I was there, and they told me don't walk in the hallway. I introduced myself as the ground supervisor, and I couldn’t understand why the building was open on a Saturday because I knew there were no permits, so the alarm went off, Gary came out and talked to me, I told Gary I really don't know what’s going on here, but nobody belongs in the building on a Saturday, and I'm asking you to just leave the building and lock the doors, and I believe that's what he did and my men waited for the police to show up.

Q. Police came?

A. Yes.

Q. And did you talk to the police when they came?

A. No, I was gone. They waited for the police to let them know that the door was secure.

Q. Who was they that waited?

A. Whatever workers were there. I'm not sure who it was. I don't remember.

Q. People from your crew or from some other --

A. People from my department.

Q. Okay, from your department. But you don't recall who that was?

A. No.

Q. Okay. And who told you to leave it alone?

A. Well, they didn't say leave it alone, let me rephrase it, I reported it to John Gallagher, he in turn turned it over to head of security, and the security told him there is nothing going on there.

Q. And who is the head of security?

A. Bruce, I don't remember the last name.

Q. Does Bruce Daniele sound familiar?

A. Yes.

Q. You think that's the head of security?

A. I thought he was the head of security.

Q. So what does it suggest to you that there was a private camp being run without a permit out of the school?

A. I don't know. I know there was no permit. He tried to say -- they tried to say it was a camp for the kids in the school, but lik I said I reported it to John Gallagher, they told me to go through John with everything, and John reported it to Bruce and Bruce handled it.

Q. Any idea how they got in the school?

A. No.

Q. Do you know who Tony Sinkfield is?

A. Yes.

Q. Who is he?

A. He's the custodian at Davis School.

Q. Do you think he would know how they got into the building?

A. I don't know.

Q. Did you ever hear that Tony Sinkfield gave Gary Lynn a key?

A. I never heard that, no.

Q. Did you see children from the school in the building at the time for this camp?

A. No, they were adults.

Q. And what were these adults doing?

A. Playing -- they were doing basketball, like exercises, they really weren’t playing together. They were doing them separately.

This sounds a lot like what I was told about Gary Lynn’s business.

Of course, if you have been reading the other transcripts of Jimmy Bonanno’s sworn testimony you would probably notice what I noticed — that he was very detailed and forthcoming in his answers. I took this to be Jimmy being unhesitating because he was being honest about the corruption of other people in contrast to his answers about himself where he was trying to fit his testimony to what he thought I knew.

In any case, to check on Jimmy’s story I filed a FOIL request with the New Rochelle Police Department to obtain a list of police calls to 80 Iselin Drive, the street address of the Davis Elementary School. There was one Commercial Alarm Call to that address over the last 10 years, a call on Sunday July 31, 2011 at 12:07 PM. It seemed plausible that Jimmy correctly remembered the incident occurred on a weekend but got mixed up between Saturday and Sunday. The report states that two New Rochelle police officers responded to an activated commercial alarm at Davis School called in by District Alarms. The two officers checked the building and found it to be secure. The police attempted to contact the “keyholder” on file with the City. That would be Tony Sinkfield, the head custodian. Police were unable to determine the cause of the alarm and, finding the building secure, resumed their normal patrol.

I reached out to Gary Lynn. I sent him a copy of the Bonanno transcript and proposed an interview. He was not terribly interested.

“There is no reason for an interview since there is no story to tell and your version of a “story” is exactly that, a story based on a limited amount of truth.” wrote Lynn in an email. Well, maybe.

Surprisingly, he did confirm an encounter with Bonanno.

“On a Saturday morning, about 5 years ago, a group of us guys got together to play some basketball. We met at Davis to figure out where to play when we realized the door to the gym was unlocked, so we went inside to play. A guy, you stated was Vincent James Bonanno, came in and asked us to leave, which we did immediately.”

This account seems implausible.

Gary Lynn resides at 52 Webster Avenue which is the Knickerbocker Lofts Condominium in the South End of New Rochelle. You want to get together with “the guys” to play basketball over the weekend. OK. But then you drive all the way up to Davis School, the complete opposite end of town?Now you lost me. Why would you meet up at Davis School? And then as luck would have you and the guys go all the way up there and conveniently you find you are not only able to enter the building but find the door to the gym unlocked. And at this very moment, Jimmy Bonanno who is rarely at Davis School happens to stumble on a bunch of grown men playing basketball in the gym at a K-5 elementary school. Even if this fairy tale were true, what gives Gary Lynn and this pals the right to essentially break into the school (whether the door was locked or not does not grant them permission to enter and use the gym).

Lynn went on to say “I consequently got a permit to have the gym on Saturday mornings as extra practice for the Davis School Basketball team.  I have not been in the gym on weekends since the permit ran out the following January.”

I guess Gary does not know me very well. Did he not think I would make a FOIL request to the New Rochelle Board of Education going back over the last 5 years. Of course, I did make a request for “all permits for the use of the gym at Davis School from the 2009-10 school year until today. Also, any related documents like rosters, insurance, etc.”

I got back several permits plus insurance certificates for the YMCA (Marie Alphonse), Youth Baseball of New Rochelle, Davis After School Program (Jamie Deutsch), Davis Carnival (Daisy Cama, Amy Pace), Youth Soccer of New Rochelle (Michael Manley), Temple Israel of New Rochelle (Lauren Mandlebaum) and two for Davis Boys and Girls Basketball Teams (Gary Lynn).

The permit’s represent another problem for Gary Lynn’s story 

The first permit is for four adults and 20 children; it runs from September 29, 2008 until June 1, 2009 from 5:00 p.m. to 7:15 p.m. The second permit is for three adults and 15 children; it runs from October 5, 2009 until May 30, 2009 from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. Presumably May 30, 2009 is a typo and should read May 30, 2010. The 2009-10 permit is for “practices Monday through Friday” as appears to be the case for the 2008-09 permit.

These permits are not for adults, they are not for the weekends, they are not for the summers and they do not end in January.

Not that it bears solely on the Gary Lynn story but the permits do not appear to be valid. All of the permit forms state they are not valid without school district approval and signatures There are six fields for signatures: Principal William Harrell, Director of Security Bruce Daniele, Assistant Superintendent for Business & Administration John Quinn, Director of Buildings & Grounds John Gallagher (yet another example of this Aramark consultant violating the Aramark contract by signing documents on behalf of the district), Custodian Tony Sinkfield and Athletic Director John Magnotta. 

The 2008-09 permit is dated September 22, 2008 and signed by Harrell, Gallagher, Sinkfield and John Magnotta. Quinn and Daniele are missing. The 2009-10 permit is dated October 2, 2009 and signed by Harrell and Sinkfield. Daniele and Magnotta signed on March 5, 2010. Gallagher signed with no date. Quinn did not sign. The permit does not indicate any particular days but appears to be for after school practices.

Lynn denies any wrong doing.

“At no time was there any bribery, exchange of money to anybody or keys given to me,” wrote Lynn.

There is one piece missing from Jimmy Bonanno and Gary Lynn’s story.

Here is the version I was told initially. It was not Jimmy Bonanno who stumbled on Lynn and his adult basketball camp at Davis. It was, as Jimmy said “people from my department”. To wit, it was actually Little Jimmy Bonanno who was up at the school for his own nefarious purposes (a story for another day). Little Jimmy got nervous when he discovered the building was open and adults were playing basketball in the gym so he called his Dad. Big Jimmy then arrived and pulled the alarm and then told the people in the gym what he had done so they skedaddled out of there.

It is difficult to sort out the exact story when you various versions coming from people who cannot be relied upon to tell the truth but I come down on the side that there is more truth to Jimmy Bonanno’s version than Gary Lynn’s version — that Lynn was running a private for-profit basketball camp out of the gym, that the adults were from Scarsdale where Lynn promotes his basketball coaching and that they had no business being there.

I told Lynn that my story would say he is the coach the girls and boys teams at Davis Elementary School, that for years he operated an adult basketball camp at the school on weekends, that he did not have proper District permission for the use of the facility, that he did not pay the District for use of the facility, that he did not obtain a permit or have liability insurance for this use of the facility, that he gained access to the building on weekends because Head Custodian Tony Sinkfield gave him a key to obtain access to the gym at Davis School and that he bribed Tony Sinkfield so you could have use of the gym at no cost to him or his business, a for-profit adult basketball camp. This is based on source reporting, partly on police records and partly on the sworn testimony of Vincent James Bonanno, who was the Grounds Maintenance Working-Foreman at the time.

Gary Lynn was adamant that this story was untrue.

“It is just not true and I never paid tony Sinkfield or anybody anything if you are a reporter then get your facts straight”.

Readers can make up their own minds. I have made up mine. I do not believe Gary Lynn.

NEXT: New Rochelle Board of Education: Criminal Enterprise Masquerading as an Educational Institution - Part XIV

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