Tuesday, October 29, 2019

NYC Council Gives Bronx Councilman Andy King Stiff Penalties For Workplace Harassment and Retaliation

Andy King

‘Retaliation, a Culture of Fear’: Councilman Is Suspended for 30 Days

Credit...James Keivom for The New York Times


 Just what do you have to do to get kicked off the City Council?

Councilman Andy King, a Bronx Democrat, seems committed to finding out: A 48-page report issued by the City Council’s ethics committee offered a portrait of a politician on tilt.

Investigators found evidence that Mr. King violated New York City’s anti-harassment policy and used Council funds to plan a retreat in the Virgin Islands at the same time as the wedding of his wife’s daughter.

Mr. King not only refused to cooperate with the investigations into his conduct, but he also actively sought to thwart them by threatening and firing members of his staff who he believed were cooperating, the committee found.

By a 44-to-1 vote, the Council agreed on Monday to suspend Mr. King for 30 days without pay, fine him $15,000 and appoint a monitor to oversee his office for the remainder of his term. The penalties take effect immediately.

A motion to expel Mr. King for his actions was introduced by Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, a Queens Democrat, but was defeated by a vote of 34 to 12.

Mr. King sat quietly as his colleagues criticized his behavior, then delivered a rambling 15-minute monologue, explaining that he was unfairly being “crucified” by Council members as “the worst person on the planet” and an “oppressor” of his staff.

“Because people say things sometimes doesn’t necessarily make it true,” Mr. King said.

The only thing he was guilty of, Mr. King told reporters as he left City Hall after the vote, was being “too nice.”

The inquiry into Mr. King’s conduct is not the first ethics investigation he has faced. In 2018, Mr. King was ordered to undergo sensitivity and ethics training after a sexual harassment claim was lodged against him by a female staff member.

 Susan Lerner, the executive director of Common Cause New York, a good-government group, said Mr. King’s conduct should be examined by criminal authorities.

“I hope there would an independent investigation by criminal authorities to determine whether there was criminal activity or not,” Ms. Lerner said, adding that Mr. King’s conduct justified expulsion from the City Council.

“The Council does not believe he has the ability to behave appropriately, so to ask the taxpayers to pay for a babysitter is inappropriate,” Ms. Lerner continued. “If I as a taxpayer would pay for anything, it’s a new election.”

No one has been expelled from the City Council, which requires a two-thirds vote, since the 1989 City Charter revision. Mr. Johnson and Mayor Bill de Blasio, both Democrats, have called for Mr. King to resign.

“How can you resign?” Pamela Hayes, Mr. King’s lawyer, said at a news conference on Saturday. “The charges are unjust.”

Mr. Johnson, who this year hired Carrie H. Cohen, a former federal prosecutor and assistant state attorney general, to serve as the Council’s special prosecutor, said that the ethics committee had referred its finding to the “appropriate” outside agencies. He declined to specify which ones.

Mr. King and Ms. Hayes had tried in court to seek a delay for the Council’s vote, but the request for a temporary restraining order was denied, according to Council staff members; they said that both sides were to return to court in December.

Mr. King is not the only Council member to face public discipline for actions during Mr. Johnson’s tenure. The most notable case involved Rubén Díaz Sr., a Bronx councilman who resisted calls to resign after making homophobic remarks. Others were disciplined for sexual harassment and for saying that “Palestine does not exist.”

Council approves fine, suspension and monitor for Andy King
By JOE ANUTA , POLITICO, 10/28/2019 06:05 PM EDT

The City Council voted Monday to level the most severe punishment in the body’s history against Bronx lawmaker Andy King, who was found by investigators to have misused Council resources and then retaliated against staff members who he thought were cooperating with the ensuing probe.

King’s colleagues voted 44 to 1 with two abstentions to suspend him for 30 days, install a monitor for the remainder of his term, fine him $15,000 and strip him of his committee assignments. In addition, staffers who were pressured by King to leave would be allowed to return to work, employees would not be required to chauffeur King around in their personal vehicles without compensation and King’s wife, 1199 SEIU employee Neva Shillingford-King, would be prohibited from conducting Council business.

King was the lone vote opposed to the resolution.

“As for Council Member King, I deplore his cowardice and disdain with which he treated his staff, the committee and this entire body," Council Speaker Corey Johnson said on the floor of the chambers. “This conduct merits sanctions of the magnitude that we can be sure will serve as a significant deterrent, while fully protecting the staff that that been through so much, and that allows for the swift detection of any bad behavior that might occur which could result in even harsher sanctions."

On the floor Monday and following the vote, King denied the allegations in the report and said that he was not given adequate time to prepare a defense, echoing statements he made over the weekend. The lawmaker has filed a lawsuit, and has referred to the inquiry as an execution, a lynching and a crucifixion.

“I am so bothered that I am being put in this situation, and acting like I’m some horrible individual," said King, who maintained that he treats staff with respect.

King urged his colleagues to vote against the measures. None of them did.

“I’m not being treated fairly. It’s not right what’s happening here. And I don’t want people making emotional decisions when due process has been violated," he said. "I’m asking you for your support as someone who was duly elected as you are."

Council members Inez Barron and I. Daneek Miller both abstained.

In the hours leading up to the vote, King’s attorneys filed a lawsuit in Manhattan state court alleging that his due process rights were violated when the Committee on Standards and Ethics and the special prosecutor Carrie Cohen did not give the lawmaker and his attorneys adequate time to mount a defense.

“Council Member King hasn’t had a chance to tell his side of the story. He hasn’t had a chance to answer the allegations,” his lawyer, Pamela Hayes, said Saturday at a press conference. “And you just have to give a person due process. That is what New York is about.”

However, Council Member Steven Matteo, chair of the committee, said Monday that King’s lawyers deliberately avoided coming in so they could argue later that his due process rights were denied.

"There are most definitely examples of due process being violated by individuals not being afforded a fair chance to defend themselves — this is unequivocally not one of those cases,” Matteo said. “Council Member King was afforded every opportunity to defend himself and present his side of the story, and squandered all of them.”

On Monday, a former staffer, whose harassment claims were substantiated by the City Council during King's first turn in front of the committee in 2017, called for King's expulsion in an opinion piece, something that Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer had said last week.

Van Bramer attempted to make good on his pledge by introducing a motion to expel King from the body during Monday's meeting of the full Council, sending the proceedings into a lengthy detour while the body voted. A handful of members joined Van Bramer, including several likely competitors in the Queens borough president race, but the motion was ultimately defeated.

The suite of punishments are set to take effect immediately. A monitor that will be funded by taxpayers for the remainder of King’s term is scheduled to arrive at his office Tuesday and will be in charge of all hiring and firing decisions, will have access to the office’s email accounts and attend staff meetings. None of those are to be held at King’s house — a reference to some of the charges contained in the committee’s 48-page report that was first obtained by POLITICO last week.

In it, the committee laid out a series of ethics violations that played out over a number of years. King’s wife, for example, was allowed to direct Council staff and make hiring and firing decisions, in several instances brought friends and colleagues from her union into the office. King and his wife also used Council resources to carry out and support a retreat in the Virgin Islands that promoted the union and included the wedding of Shillingford-King’s daughter.

King also allegedly allowed one of his staffers to physically intimidate others in the office. And during a June 2015 meeting, the report argues he compared a picture from the city’s Pride Parade to child pornography.

Once the committee began investigating King, the Council found that he retaliated against staffers, at one point keeping them at a meeting in his house until those who had been cooperating with the probe revealed themselves. Three members admitted talking to investigators. And in response, they allegedly suffered a series of retributions.

“It brought us to tears of what [King's staff] had to go through. Nobody should have to go through that. Nobody should have to get up in the morning and dread going to work because they were going to be ridiculed, punished, threatened, anything that could harm them,” said Council Member Karen Koslowitz, who sits on the ethics committee.

“For the next two years and two months, Andy King will remember what he did," she later added.

With the vote behind them, the fate of King now lies with a Manhattan judge, who could decide to bring the process to a halt while determining the question of whether King was afforded a fair chance to respond.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

NYC Department of Education Will Not Move a Queens School, But Commits $16 Million

Then, after giving promises for the money, everyone forgot about Public School 9 in Maspeth. Official statement = "we gave at the office".

Thank goodness for the New York Post where the stink continues to fester, and this is a good thing.

In the piece published recently in the Post and re-posted below, Queens City Councilman Robert Holden said:

"If the chancellor believes pouring endless tax dollars into Willowbrook 2.0 is acceptable, and he can sleep at night, that’s on him.”
Remove politics from education!

Betsy Combier, betsy.combier@gmail.com
Editor, ADVOCATZ.com
Editor, NYC Rubber Room Reporter
Editor, Parentadvocates.org
Editor, New York Court Corruption
Editor, National Public Voice
Editor, NYC Public Voice
Editor, Inside 3020-a Teacher Trials

File - A Queens special needs school under fire for deteriorating conditions will get a $16 million face lift — but no new location, schools Chancellor Richard Carranza said in a letter sent Friday to a local politician who is pushing for the move. (Byron Smith/for New York Daily News)

Education Department commits $16 million to embattled Queens school, but nixes move to new building

Carranza nixes shift of Qns. school for disabled

AUG 09, 2019
Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza rejected moving a Queens school for the disabled (inset), which the Education Department says has already gotten plenty of money for fixes. (Byron Smith)

By Michael Elsen-Rooney New York Daily News

A Queens special needs school under fire for deteriorating conditions will get a $16 million face lift — but no new location, Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza said in a letter sent Friday to a local politician who is pushing for the move.

The fixes to Public School 9 in Maspeth, which houses 100 students with severe disabilities, include adding an elevator and redoing the cafeteria, come on top of $14 million the city had previously committed. But the letter eliminated any possibility of a move in the near future — something Queens City Councilman Robert Holden says is necessary because of the building’s inaccessibility and location in a fume-ridden industrial zone.

“I am proud of this building and its history,” PS 9 Principal Robert Wojnarowski said in a statement Friday. “We will continue to work hand-in-hand with the School Construction Authority, local elected officials, and members of the community so our students can continue to learn and grow here.”

But Holden ripped Carranza for refusing to make a move.

“It is clear that Chancellor Carranza cares little about the most vulnerable children in our system,” he said.

The fate of PS 9 is at the center of a sometimes heated public debate. Holden has pushed for almost a year for a move to a new site, and claimed city officials ignored deteriorating conditions.

Education Department officials countered that they’ve already invested $14 million into a still-ongoing exterior renovation along with smaller interior changes, and that agency representatives have assessed the building regularly.

Carranza personally visited the school Monday before deciding on final recommendations.

The bulk of the new investment will go toward making the building, which currently has no elevator and no wheelchair access, fully accessible. Officials said the changes, the biggest of which is building an elevator, will cost $7 to $10 million and take three to five years.

The basement —which holds the school’s gym and cafeteria — will get a $5 million renovation expected to be finished by September 2021.

Officials also committed to a deep clean of the building, new changing tables in bathrooms, and no chipping or peeling paint by the first day of school in September. Another $1 million will go toward a new music room, sensory room and computer room, the letter said.

The debate over the school has at times spilled over into the surrounding community, with some parents blasting the school’s conditions, while teachers have vocally defended the site and pointed to the potential disruption to students of a move.

Further complicating matters, the building where Holden has proposed relocating the school is also under consideration to house a homeless shelter, a move Holden has opposed.

The councilman said he won’t be satisfied until the students are relocated.

“If the chancellor believes pouring endless tax dollars into Willowbrook 2.0 is acceptable, and he can sleep at night, that’s on him.”

The Non-Thriving ThriveNYC Run By Chirlane McCray is a Scam

 Please tell us when the end of the McCray/de Blasio performance can be seen. We need to get rid of the corruption and fraud they are performing, with immunity, against a backdrop of poisoned children in NYCHA housing, bribes and other crimes against NYC taxpayers.

Betsy Combier, betsy.combier@gmail.com
Editor, ADVOCATZ.com
Editor, NYC Rubber Room Reporter
Editor, Parentadvocates.org
Editor, New York Court Corruption
Editor, National Public Voice
Editor, NYC Public Voice
Editor, Inside 3020-a Teacher Trials

Chirlane McCray

ThriveNYC is failing New Yorkers amid spike in NYPD shootings
, NY POST, October 22, 2019
Bill de Blasio and his conjugal co-mayor, Chirlane McCray, have conspired to blow almost a billion bucks on services for deranged New Yorkers, of which there are many, yet it seems things are getting crazier. Why is this?
The latest iteration of an all-too-familiar tale finds a street peddler with a long history of mental illness shot by police Friday after skulling a cop with a metal chair in a Brooklyn nail salon.
Saturday morning, the peddler was dead, the cop was in a medically induced coma and mutterings of police over-reaction were hanging in the air.
For once, such concerns are not unreasonable. Eleven civilians have been shot dead by officers in 2019, compared to four last year — and the obvious question is: Why such a sharp increase?
This question deserves a deliberate inquiry and an honest answer — which de Blasio is unlikely to provide, if only because the finger of blame points more squarely at City Hall than it does at One Police Plaza.
There are no easy answers, as always. Mental illness has been an intractable urban problem for going on to a half century; culture and case law have evolved to favor the mentally ill when they come into conflict with the community in all but the most extreme circumstances.
The irony is that all too often the mentally ill are their own victims — even as that’s regularly lost in horrendous collateral damage.
Nobody really disputes this, and virtually everybody says something should be done about it — even the mayor and his missus. That’s why Bill handed Chirlane the mental health portfolio on Day One — along with a virtually open-ended draw on the municipal fisc.
Thus was born ThriveNYC — a classic example of an ill-directed, over-funded, ego-infused fiasco made possible by the fact that nobody, ever, wants to say no to the boss.
Friday’s nail salon tragedy was among ThriveNYC’s more obvious failures — the dead peddler’s family said it had been trying to get him help for some time, only to be dismissed — but it is far from the only one.
The problem, writes urban mental illness expert DJ Jaffe, is the mayoral make-work project’s misallocated priorities.
“Only 12% [of Thrive’s near-billion-dollar budget has been] focused on adults with untreated serious mental illness,” says Jaffe. “As a result almost 40% of the most seriously mentally ill in New York City go untreated.”
In other words, there’s plenty of dough to address angst and ennui — but bi-polar Brooklyn peddlers, deranged subway pushers, babbling park-bench homesteaders and the man who crushed the skulls of four fellow vagrants are on their own.
As is the city.
There’s no doubt that public disorder is increasing in the city, never mind the official stats. And while not all of the city’s ever-more-numerous and increasingly belligerent street-dwellers and cop-fighters are mentally ill and untreated, enough of them are to mark ThriveNYC as just another de Blasio administration failure.
No surprise there.
Twitter: @rlmac2