The New Rochelle Board of Education voted unanimously last night to begin litigation against Vito Costa and A 2 Z Heating and Air Conditioning and V & M Vending, two companies controlled by Costa.
Costa is now facing up to 7 years in prison after he was arrested in August and charged with Grand Larceny and Falsifying Business records, a story first reported here on Talk of the Sound in June.
The resolution passed by the board last night authorizes lawyers to recover all amounts owing due to abscence from work to pursue unauthorized personal business done during work hours, and to recover all amounts owing due to business down with the School District through entities owned and/or controlled by Mr. Costa.
On the criminal side, Costa is currently scheduled for conference with prosecutors on February 17, 2010.
Still no explanation from anyone how Costa was able to work a no-show job and bill the district for services, supplies and equipment provided by his own company without any employees or supervisors noticing that Costa was not reporting to work. I have had no trouble finding people in New Rochelle who knew Costa was running a private business "on the side" but apparently this was unknown to those he worked for in the buildings and grounds department. What sort of department is John Gallagher running where his men going missing for months at a time and he has no idea?
Some of the HVAC systems installed in private homes and commercial buildings are still there. Wonder if the lawyer will seek to recover those systems if they can be shown to be stolen property?
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: Jacob's Locks on Main Street in New Rochelle and another company in Mount Vernon.
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.
And let's not get started about the misappropriation of school vehicles by buildings and grounds staff or the full-time glazier we currently employ. Just how many windows are broken and replaced as part of the routine maintenance of the dozen buildings owned by the district? Couldn't this work also be done far cheaper by contracting out the work?
You know what? $75,000 here and $90,000 there and pretty soon you are taking about real money!