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Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Ridiculous, Unreasonable, Arbitrary and Capricious $500 Fine To Be Paid by Robert Grandt




To New Yorkers tortured by the fact that the Mayor and City Council have joined together in a supremely suspicious 'secret' payoff to each other to extend term limits, (and get free health benefits paid with taxpayer dollars for the rest of their lives)the ruling by city agencies to have Brooklyn Tech librarian Robert Grandt (pictured above) fined $500 for putting his daughter's book on display at the school and mentioning it in a newsletter is simply outrageous.

We the public know that Joel Klein is still hiring people to work at his overflowing Tweed Company commonly known as the New York City Board of Education while good people are losing their jobs and homes, and we know that public schools are being robbed daily of good teachers who are thrown out without cause by the ever-deviant Special Commissioner of Investigation. (see the case of Teddy Smith). Hey, I am the mom of four children, I want to buy this book. At any price.

Mayor Mike: please beg for Mr. Grandt's forgiveness. And give his daughter the keys to the City and a ticker tape parade. Congratulations to the Daily News for publishing the right thing for once.

Betsy Combier

October 22, 2008
A Brooklyn Librarian Is Fined for Promoting His Daughter’s Book
By ALISON LEIGH COWAN, NY TIMES

For 39 years as an educator, Robert Grandt has been promoting other people’s books. So this year, when his daughter helped create a graphic novel of “Macbeth,” Mr. Grandt could not resist bragging a little in the newsletter he distributes as a librarian at Brooklyn Technical High School.

“Best New Book: Grandt, Eve, ‘Shakespeare’s Macbeth — The Manga Edition,’ ” he wrote under the heading “Grandt’s Picks.” (see picture at right)

He also placed a few copies of the book at a library display table, and posted a sign: “Best Book Ever Written.” If someone were interested, they got a book free.

But one person’s parental pride is another panel’s ethical transgression.

On Monday, the city’s Conflicts of Interest Board announced it had settled a case it had brought against Mr. Grandt for promoting his daughter’s work. He agreed to pay a $500 fine and admit in a three-page stipulation that he had violated the city ethics code.

Mr. Grandt, who said he was an unwitting villain, was disappointed the board did not see things his way.

“There are so many things going on they could investigate,” he said in an interview, “and they had nothing better to do than allege that my daughter would have gotten 20 cents in royalties if someone bought the book. But nobody did. I gave out free copies. I was just so proud of my daughter for writing it.”

The New York City Charter warns public servants about taking actions in their official roles that benefit them personally, and the conflicts board is empowered to interpret the code and bring cases. Last week, for example, the conflicts board ruled that City Council members would not violate the charter if they were to vote to extend or abolish the term limits now scheduled to remove them from office.

Mr. Grandt, on the other hand. ...

“It’s unbelievable,” the 61-year-old former social studies teacher said.

Officials of the conflicts board declined to comment on their reasoning.

Mr. Grandt, one of three librarians at Brooklyn Tech, said he had donated many books to the library, including a copy of the book by his 28-year-old daughter, her first as an illustrator. The book, published in February by Wiley Publishing, is a drawn version of the Shakespeare text, an approach that, among other things, might entice young readers’ interest in the classics. Adam Sexton is listed as author and Candice Chow as co-illustrator.

A reviewer on Amazon wrote that the book was “far superior to Cliff Notes or the old Classic Comics” as a primer on the play.

Mr. Grandt said his daughter was paid a few thousand dollars for her drawings. “There are so many good ones,” Mr. Grandt said, flipping through the illustrations, some rather gory. “I like these full-page ones. They have a Gothic air to them.”

Mr. Grandt said he did not envision that putting a few copies of his daughter’s book on a table or promoting it in the newsletter last spring would cross the line.

“I’m supposed to, as part of my job, display new books and encourage the kids to read new books,” he said. “So here, I displayed my daughter’s book and encouraged the kids to read it and am told that I had done something illegal.”

Trouble first surfaced in June, he said, when he was summoned to an assistant principal’s office. Representatives from the city’s Department of Investigation were there to ask about the book.

In August, the conflicts board sent him a letter telling him he could lose his job and be stripped of his teaching license. He recalled the board wanted to impose a $1,000 fine. Mr. Grandt could not find a lawyer to represent him for less than that amount, but he and his wife, a legal secretary, were ultimately able to negotiate a lower fine.

The biggest punishment, though, according to Mr. Grandt, was feeling he had no choice but to remove the book from the school’s library.

“I decided not only would I take the table down, but I’d better remove the book from the catalog and take it permanently off the shelves,” he said, figuring “that would be the best course of action.”

Brooklyn librarian fined $500 over daughter's book
By the Associated Press
LINK

NEW YORK (AP) -- A New York City high school librarian has been fined $500, but it isn't a late fee: He's being punished for promoting his daughter's graphic novel on the job.
Robert Grandt says he only meant to show how proud he was by highlighting his daughter's first book, an adaptation of "Macbeth" that she co-illustrated. Grandt promoted the book in a newsletter he distributes as a librarian at Brooklyn Technical High School and gave out free copies.

The city's Conflicts of Interest Board says he broke an ethics code that prohibits public employees from taking actions that could benefit them personally. Grandt agreed to pay the fine.

Grandt says no one profited from his promotion. He says it's part of his job to "encourage the kids to read new books."

Brooklyn Tech librarian is owed an apology by city agencies
Daily News, Monday, October 27th 2008, 4:00 AM
LINK

The city's ethics cops owe an apology and a clean bill of health to a public high school librarian whom they prosecuted to the most exaggerated extent of the law for the grave offense of being a proud father.

Robert Grandt, a 39-year city schools veteran now stationed at Brooklyn Tech, was guilty only of sharing a dad's delight that his daughter had illustrated a pictorial version of "Macbeth."

For that, Grandt was hounded by the Conflicts of Interest Board, the Department of Investigation and the office of the special schools investigator, convicted of violating the City Charter and fined $500.

We'll use polite language. This is chicken droppings.

Grandt's duties at Brooklyn Tech include preparing a library newsletter. In an issue last spring, he cited his daughter's work as "Best New Book." Around the same time, Grandt spent his own money to buy a few copies, gave some away and displayed some on a table with a sign advertising, "The Best Book Ever Written."

To the conflicts board, Grandt broke a bar against public employees using positions "to obtain any financial gain, contract, license, privilege or other private or personal advantage" for themselves, family members and friends.

If so, the breach was hypertechnically microscopic. It would be astonishing if Grandt's action boosted his daughter's royalties by even $5.

And wouldn't it be nice if the board applied the same zeal to officials who brazenly play around with hundreds of thousands of dollars. Such as the City Council, whose members funnel huge sums to private groups run by kinfolk and political pals.

The board is just fine with this blatant abuse of power. As long as a Council member discloses that he or she is sending taxpayer money to, say, a brother, sister or spouse, the Council member is free to do exactly as he or she pleases.

But the board draws the line when someone who is powerless, someone who does not have a lawyer, puts a few picture books on a table and calls them "The Best Book Ever Written."

Its actions against Grandt were as disproportionate and unfair as can be. Panel members should clear him, refund the fine and stick to picking on people their own size. And they can start by rewriting the rules to ban the Council from showering relatives with public funds.

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