In what can only be described as a major victory for Talk of the Sound, residents and taxpayers of New Rochelle and the honest, hard-working employees of the New Rochelle school district, Rolf Koehler is no longer employed by the City School District of New Rochelle.
The New Rochelle Board of Education will make it official at their next board meeting but based on a Draft Resolution distributed to the public last night, New Rochelle School Security Administrator Rolf Koehler has been "unexpectedly resigned" from his position and will be replaced with two job candidates selected from the eligibility list based on a civil service exam offered by the New Rochelle Civil Service Commission in 2010. Koehler submitted his resignation letter last week; the board went into executive session to discuss the employment status of a particular person, presumably Koehler.
Koehler's departure is a signal victory for Talk of the Sound which, for the past 2 years, has relentlessly hounded school officials who have employed an array of illegal maneuvers to keep Koehler in a position where he earned a full-time salary, benefits, and was granted overtime of over $30,000 a year, while accruing time towards a second pension in a job where he was, by many accounts, not often present. Talk of the Sound has repeatedly called on the New Rochelle Board of Education to dispense with the illegal maneuvering and direct the administration to do as they are required to do under the law -- pick someone from the eligibility list.
These maneuvers consisted of repeatedly renaming Koehler's position in a transparent attempt to avoid selecting candidates for the position from an "eligibility list" created by the New Rochelle CSC following a School Security Officer exam given in February 2010 after the New York State CSC ordered the City School District of New Rochelle to hold a competitive exam for the position after the State discovered that Koehler had been given the position improperly. The CSDNR compounded the problem by making repeated false statements to the New York State Civil Service Commission and ignoring clear orders to pick a candidate from the list.
Under the New York State civil service law, hiring authorities are required to select from among the top 3 candidates on a list, called the “eligibility list”, created by the state or local Civil Service Commission. Four candidates scored 100 on the exam. Rolf Koehler reportedly scored a 95 on a previous exam bus making him ineligible for the position. The 2 candidates selected from the list, Joseph Rondinelli and Paul Sarachelli, were 2 of the candidates that scored a 100 on the exam.
Talk of the Sound first began to raise questions about Rolf Koehler in 2009 when the the New Rochelle Board of Education was asked by Schools Superintendent Richard Organisciak to pass a resolution granting Koehler a "211 waiver" allowing Koehler to "double dip" on his NYPD police pension.
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.
In either case, the resolution says that the three men were recruited based on their prior service as NRPD officers. This is not correct. As Rolf Koehler did not serve with the NRPD I have asked the Board of Education whether the the District amend the resolution and resubmit it to the board.
Under an agreement with the New York State Civil Service Commission, under which Rolf Koehler was allowed to keep his position temporarily to avoid disruption for the district, the Board of Education was required to hold a competitive exam for the position and then select from among the top 3 candidates. When Rolf Koehler failed to score the top 3 on the exam, the school district assembly fabricated a new title for the exact same position and then appointed Ralph Koehler to that position. When the New York State Civil Service Commission learned with the school district had done, they again ordered the school district to select a candidate from the eligibility list. The district ignored that instruction and created a new title for the same position and then appointed Rolf Koehler to that position, again in direct violation of the order from the New York State Civil Service Commission.
When New Rochelle School Superintendent Richard Organisciak sought to rush through the resolution appointing Rolf Koehler to the third position Talk of the Sound began to make an issue out of it resulting in a series of parliamentary maneuvers by the New Rochelle Board of Education ultimately resulting and a withdrawal of the resolution Rolf Koehler was granted in improper leave of absence so that he could avoid going over the statutory maximum amount he was allowed to earn in the public sector in New York State without losing his NYPD pension. Rolf Koehler then return to work on January 1, 2011 with the understanding that if he were to earn more then he was allowed under his NYPD pension that he would have to deal with the consequences of that. In June, Rolf Koehler told coworkers at New Rochelle High School that June 30 would be his last day. Sources tell Talk of the Sound you submitted his letter resignation last week.
The Koehler case has come to highlight a broader issue -- wasteful spending in a school security apparatus run amuck. While the City of New Rochelle has been reducing the number of police officers, instituting a hiring freeze and refusing to conclude contract negotiations with the police union, the New Rochelle Board of Education has allowed Security Director Bruce Danielle to luxuriate in hiring more and more general school aides including a large number of part-time hourly workers to mask the true cost of his department in the school budget. On any given school day there are more security guards (40-50) working at New Rochelle High School than are patrolling the streets of New Rochelle in any given 24 hour period -- combined! Talk of the Sound has been pointing out for years that complaints about the size of the City budget are misplaced; the real problem is a school board that has found ways to justify an ever-expanding, bloated budget loaded with pork, patronage, no-show jobs, with many of those given to people who are routinely engaged in wholesale theft and misappropriation of school property.
While it took two years, the Rolf Koehler case does show that given the correct information the New Rochelle Board of Education is willing to overrule Richard Organisciak and make sure that New York State civil service laws are followed. That appears to be the case with the Painter Working-Foreman exam as well and suggest the possibility that for the first time in many years board members are beginning to take their legal and constitutional responsibilities seriously and Rochelle. We can only hope this is part of a trend and not an aberration. It is certainly not a coincidence that this newfound interest in following the law, not accepting at face value what they are told by the school administration, and overruling the superintendent as occurred in the context of the increasing influence of Talk of the Sound.
ROLF KOEHLER CASE: