An Open Letter To The New Rochelle City Council: Broadcast Civil Service Meetings; Archive Video of All Official Meetings

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An Open Letter To The New Rochelle City Council: Broadcast Civil Service Meetings; Archive Video of All Official Meetings

July 21, 2013 - 13:50

An open letter to the New Rochelle City Council:

Dear Council Members:

Three years ago, the New Rochelle City Council overcame the objections of Mayor Bramson to begin recording and broadcasting live meetings of the New Rochelle IDA and the Planning Boardand Board of Appeals on Zoning. The world did not end and the cost is minimal.

The next step is to expand this effort by recording and broadcasting all public meetings of all official meetings to include the Civil Service Commission, the Municipal Arts Commission, the Historical and Landmark Review Board, Corporation for Local Development Meeting and every other official meeting.

These video recordings should be hosted on the City web site the same as City Council meetings with the videos matched to meeting agendas for easy reference.

The starting place must be the Municipal Civil Service Commission.

The Civil Service Commission (CSC) may be the most problematic organization within the City government. It is also central to how both the City and the School District is run and, to a large extent, can be said to be directly responsible for the hiring of people who are unqualified for their position, who flagrantly lied on their job application and who were hired despite criminal histories.

The school district, in particular, has deliberately, knowingly hired people with criminal histories. This needs to end. If not because the law requires it but for the safety of our children who have been exposed to drug dealers and sexual predators as a result of the "flawed" hiring process in New Rochelle. The City, in turn, relies on the school district to do background checks when it hires part-time workers over the summer.

The Commissioner of the Civil Service Commission is a documented tax cheat who took tax exemptions for many years that were intended for combat veterans or their widows. It is hard to think of something more despicable with regard to the men and woman who have fought, and in some cases, died for our country that a government official would pocket money intended for them or the officials around him who allow him to continue in his office with all the trappings of power and prestige that entails. In any other town, this person would have been forced out in disgrace and possibly run out of town on a rail. In New Rochelle, this person is feted and honored.

As some of you know, based on my reporting, he was forced to repay that money. He did not, however, repay an estimated $20,000 in illegal STAR exemptions he took on the same house, a house he somehow obtained for free from the widow. He did not repay it because the City did not ask him to.

One result of my reporting is that the City Charter was changed so that the CSC Administrator no longer served at the pleasure of the CSC Chairman but was appointed by and reported to the City Manager. Legally, the power to hire/fire the administrator was the only real power of the Chairman so this was a positive step.

Note that a previous CSC Administrator was "resigned" after getting caught embezzling money. Specifically, this person arranged for payments to be made to family members for proctoring civil service exams when they did not. GIven the Chairman's track record, making the administrator position report to the City Manager is preferable.

The Commissioner, by all accounts, is functionally illiterate in English. He cannot read the job specifications and other documents at the meetings he chairs. He pretends to read them, according to sources. I believe I have observed this myself. The CSC is one of the most heavily regulated departments in the City government. What does it say about our City that the person running the CSC cannot read the documents that pass through his committee? One can speculate as to why he is in this position but it is not because of his brilliant legal mind or even his command of the English language.

For many, many years the CSC held illegal meetings. They routinely held their public meetings behind closed and locked doors in the office of the Civil Service Administrator. The meetings were routinely not noticed in the paper or on the City web site. The legal implication is that none of the decisions at those meetings were legal, although that would be close to impossible to prove at this point. Readers may recall my videotapes the CSC going into session behind closed, locked doors and my forcing my way into the meeting.

The NR CSC not only serves as the Civil Service agency for the City of New Rochelle but for the New Rochelle Board of Education. I have documented MANY cases where civil service law was not followed -- fingerprints not taken or not submitted to New York State, background checks were not performed, applications not checked to verify academic degrees or state licenses, etc. The school district has hired people who do not live in New Rochelle when they were required to do so, people without high school diplomas when that was required, people with criminal records, people without valid licenses, etc. For example, the district hired a person to be a motor vehicle operator with a history of heroin addiction and a then-recent drunk driving conviction. The school district just hired a guy to work at the high school who was arrested in Operation City Sweeper, an 6 month long NRPD investigation into drug dealing in New Rochelle.

How do things like this keep happening? From a technical perspective, the answer is the CSC. I have published many articles on this along with video, arrest sheets, mug shots, court and police records and more.

Failures of the CSC with regard to the BoE rebound back to the City. According to the recent OSC report on background checks, the City has stated that one of the reasons they did not do background checks is because many of their youth personnel work for the school district. and they assumed that the district was doing the background checks and keeping current on their employees. That is an entirely incorrect assumption. I have documented a dozen cases of sex crimes against children by school district employees. There are others that I am currently researching. For those of you with children in the school system, are you OK with a system that puts violent criminals, drug dealers and sexual predators in contact with your children? I am not.

I made up my mind last summer to take steps to address what I could address in this regard -- to hold the CSC to the requirements of the Open Meeting Law regarding public notice an posting documents on the City web site and to video tape every meeting and publish the results. There has been improvement since the administrator was placed under the City Manager. Earlier this year, however, be aware that the CSC cancelled a scheduled, noticed meeting and then took it upon themselves to hold a meeting a week later without posting notice in the paper of record, as required, or even posting the information on the City web site. When I made an issue out of it, the CSC was directed by the City Manager to hold a special meeting on 1/31 as a "do over". The documents for THAT meeting were never posted to the web as required under OML and I have not been provided those documents despite having made a formal request.

With that said, I believe it is safe to say that you would not have even known about this NRPD reorganization plan except for my bird-dogging the CSC.

At this point you may be asking "why is he writing all of this?" or "what does he want me to do?"

1. Direct the City Manager to add the Civil Service Meetings to the list of meetings that are videotaped/broadcast along with the City Council, Planning, Zoning and IDA meetings.

2. Allocate funds to have the service you use for City Council meetings to add all these other meetings to the video archive on the City web site..

Chuck has said in the past that it costs $200 to video tape a meeting like IDA, Zoning or Planning.

There is a way to do this at NO cost or 50% cost.

Hold meetings back to back.

There are three meetings happen during the day: IDA, CSC and Municipal Arts Commission (MAC).

No Cost -- Move the Civil Service Meetings to be at 4:45 PM on the days that the IDA meets at 5:00 PM. That would allow the person doing the work to do both in one sitting.

50% Cost -- Hold the CSC and MAC meetings back to back.

Both are possible because CSC meetings are typically 2-5 minutes long.

Even at 100% cost, there are 10 CSC meetings each year so that would cost $2,000.

You just spent $5,000 on an entirely pointless parking study.

If the City can can throw away 5 grand on a bogus parking study the City can certainly afford 2 grand to keep the public informed about a part of City government that needs far more scrutiny than any other department.