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Sunday, March 25, 2012

Notice of Claim RE: NYC DOE Attorneys Cheryl Smith-Massena and Theresa Europe, Question for NYSUT Attorney Maria Elena Gonzalez

From Betsy Combier, Editor:
Once again, let me describe to you all the actions of NYC DOE Attorney Cheryl Smith-Massena, who claimed, to Arbitrator Stephen O'Beirne, on November 2, 2011, that the 3020-a hearing must be closed to the "public" - meaning me and three other people - because I was a blogger who posted the names of minor children on my blog. O'Beirne not only closed the hearing to the public, but sequestered me and the other observers on another floor when the child came in to testify that day. As if we would assault the student. Never, in 9 years, has a member of the public - me or anyone else - been sequestered in order not to be anywhere near to a student testifying.

As I and all members of the public at 3020-a are not permitted to talk on the record, and as O'Beirne did not ask for my explanation after Ms. Smith-Massena made the accusations against me, I was not able to say whether or not I was indeed guilty as charged. Sound familiar?

So I did what all employees falsely charged or arrested should do, but dont (because no one mentions the General Muicipal Law Section 50-e, the Notice of Claim clause), I filed a Notice of Claim against Cheryl Smith-Massena and Theresa Europe, Dennis Walcott, and the City of New York. My 50-H hearing was January 31, 2012.

Recently I wrote Arbitrator Stephen O'Beirne a letter, asking him to keep all notes that he had on the issue of my posting the names of minor children on my blog. I sent copies to Cheryl Smith-Massena and Maria Elena Gonzalez, Claude Hersh, Theresa Europe, New York State Education Department, the AAA, and several others. By the way, I think that Arbitrator O'Beirne is a very good arbitrator, he listened to the evidence, wrote copious notes and gave an excellent decision in this case. This story is not about him, its about how Maria Elena Gonzalez, Cheryl Smith-Massena, and the "Gotcha Squad" get into attack mode for the actions I have taken to expose the 3020-a arbitration procedures. The fact of the matter is, everything they say and do is, has been, and will continue to be documented because I think something is terribly wrong in this forum.

Here is my letter to Arbitrator O'Beirne (I redacted the names of the Respondents):

Betsy Combier
315 East 65th Street
New York, NY 10065

                                                                March 17, 2012
Stephen F. O'Beirne, Esq.,
176 Washington Avenue
Clifton, N.J. 07011

Dear Arbitrator O'Beirne,

I am the "member of the public" who attended two of your open hearings for UFT members  that have recently concluded at the New York City Department of Education Office of General Counsel, 51 Chambers Street, Manhattan.

At the hearings before you I was simply an observer, as opposed to a witness or paralegal, and therefore I and my name did not belong being placed in the hearings for        and          as the reason for a closed hearing or at least a closed hearing for the testimony of any child(ren). As a non-party I could not contribute in the record any comments to the baseless and slanderous comments made to you by Ms. Cheryl  Smith-Massena about me, and you did not suggest that I address this statement, although I was ready to do so if you had requested it.  I am writing this letter to clarify my position as an advocate and reporter who has attended open and public NYC 3020-a hearings for almost nine years.

Ms. Smith-Massena accused me of posting the names of children on my blog in order to validate her argument that you must close open and public 3020-a hearings to the "public", meaning me and any other observer.  On Friday February 3, you stated that the Department had even accused me of bringing in animal(s)?? I did appreciate your comment about a giraffe, however I believe that Ms. Smith-Massena and her Supervisor Theresa Europe are serious about harassing me with whatever allegation of wrong-doing they can fling my way.  For the record I have never taped or videotaped a Hearing, never brought an animal into a hearing, and have never asked to interview a witness who is under oath during a hearing. I believe Ms. Massena's motive was to retaliate against me for posting her and Theresa Europe's memo in the Steve Ostrin case on my blog and website, see the articles below:

Steve Ostrin

In Mr. Ostrin's article you will see his accuser, Grace, was in his class at Brooklyn Tech, however when she came in to testify at his hearing in 2009-2010 she was already over the age of eighteen.

 It may be useful for you to know that barely 5 minutes before starting the           hearing Attorney Maria Elena Gonzalez-Lichten told all four public observers ready to attend the 3020-a for Ms.     that you were considering closing the Hearing when the child came in to testify because the Chancellor's Regulations required this. I do not know of any Chancellor's Regulation that says this, but I may have missed that "fact" despite my detailed analysis of the Regulations.

As a result of both Ms. Smith-Massena and Ms. Gonzalez-Lichten requiring a closed hearing when the child witness came in to the  3020-a of          you even sequestered me and the other observers on the floor below, so that we could not see or impose ourselves on the child. The assumption that I would do such a thing is abhorrent to me, as well as your sequestering, as demanded by the DOE and NYSUT. I have never heard of this happening before in any hearing that I have attended over the past nine years.

 I am, it is true, a blogger and online writer/reporter. My website,, and two of my blogs, NYC Rubber Room Reporter and New York Court Corruption,  are on the internet since 2002, 2007, and 2008, respectively.

 What is absolutely untrue is the allegation that I post names of minor children on my blog, unless the name(s) are already published elsewhere online or in hard copy. Ms. Smith-Massena knew when she told you about my posting children's names that this "fact" was not true. As stated above,  I have filed a Notice of Claim with the NYC Bureau of Law and Adjustment as well as with the City of New York.  My 50-H hearing took place on  January 31, 2012. I intend on pursuing this.

I have had more than ample opportunity to post any and all witness' names, because over the past eight plus years I have studied cases, read the transcripts,  represented children and parents in IEP reviews and Impartial Hearings, and seen hundreds of names of minor children who testify or appear at various hearings with Department of Education personnel. I have been hired to be a paralegal at several hearings in the past couple of months.

The focus of my book is the process used in the 3020-a to charge, suspend, and/or terminate teachers, therefore names of children and witnesses are not important and will not be used if the individual is under 18 years of age, unless I feel that the name(s) are necessary for the story to be told. As I intend on pursuing Ms. Smith-Massena's actions and those of her colleagues and Supervisor as they relate to insults and false claims of me, my character, or my work, I ask that you keep all notes, documents, transcripts, and any and all other evidence that shows any reference to me by any NYC Department of Education personnel. I may ask you to produce them, as well as any and all information that led to your sequestering me and the other observers at the hearing of                 .

My fervent hope is that Cheryl Smith-Massena, her colleagues, and Supervisor stop saying, writing, or alleging in any way "facts" that they are aware of being not true, and that you ask for a response from an observer at a hearing you preside over, so that Ms. Massena or any other person at a hearing before you is not allowed to accuse someone of something without the person so accused is given a chance to rebut the allegation.

Thank you very much for your attention and consideration of this request! If you have any questions, please call me or email me at the addresses at the top of this letter.


Betsy Combier
Copies mailed to:, for posting
NYC Rubber Room Reporter, for posting
NYSED Teacher Tenure Unit
American Arbitration Association
Theresa Europe
Cheryl Smith-Massena
Maria Elena Gonzalez Lichten
Claude Hersh

I just received an email from Maria Elena Gonzalez which I want to share with you so that I can answer her on this post:

From: "Maria Gonzalez"
To: betsy.combier@gmail
Date: Tue, 20 Mar 2012 12:45:49 -0400
Subject: your erroneous comment

As a courtesy,  I informed the public that           hearing would be closed pursuant to the provision of the Commissioner's Regulations, not the Chancellor's Regulations as you erroneously stated in your letter to Mr. O'Beirne. ( DOE counsel had provided a copy of the relevant  New York Commissioner of Education Rules and Regulations  (NYCRR). Also, please do not change my  name. M name is Maria Elena Gonzalez, not "Maria Elena Gonzalez-Lichten" as I have never changed or hyphenated my name nor am I required to do so because of my marriage. Thank you.
Here is my response:
I assumed that your former client, Eric Fuller, who posted your telephone call to him after you told him not to testify at his 3020-a and he was terminated, had recent information about your professional name being hyphenated, so I will not refer to you in the future by Maria Elena Gonzalez-Lichten, thank you for bringing this to my attention.
As for my being "confused" about your saying the "Commissioner's Regulations" as opposed to "Chancellor's Regulations" before you started screaming that I was a liar, and I lied about everything (when I asked what I lied about), I am very aware of the Commissioner's Regulations as well as NYCRR, and you did NOT mention either of these. Before you started screaming that I was a liar you said that O'Beirne was hearing the argument for closing the hearing based upon the Chancellor's Regulations, and that is why I took my pad out of my bag and asked you "Which Chancellor's Regulation is that?" at which point you started screaming that I was a liar.

Soon after you left the space where I and the other observers were sitting, the three ladies - who had never met me before - told me that I should never have lied about you, and how could I do that, so you definitely had an important influence over their perception of me. What, exactly, did I say/write about you that is/was a lie? Please give me details so I can address these allegations.

I also received emails, text messages and telephone calls from your clients telling me that they are not supposed to talk with me because you told them I am "trouble". Can you please elaborate on that? I'd like to know exactly what you mean, so that I can properly address this allegation.

Please reply to me no later than March 30, 2012, or I will assume that you have no facts upon which your statements are based, and will proceed accordingly.

Thank you, Ms. Gonzalez.


Betsy Combier

Here is Maria Elena Gonzalez' reply:
Maria Gonzalez to me
show details Mar 26 (8 days ago)

Dear Ms. Combier,
As a non lawyer, you maybe unaware that I am not at liberty to discuss anything relating to my client representation with you. Therefore I unfortunateley cannot rectify your strange and baseless attacks on my representation. Especially in the case of Eric Fuller- I would think even you  should be able to figure out that you have very limited information about that matter.  You are well aware that you have lied, or  at best, have been recklessly misinformed and careless when reporting about me in your blog. Please cease from contacting me. -Maria Elena Gonzalez

Note from me:
I spoke with Eric Fuller after he received his unjust decision of termination, and he appealed to the New York State Supreme Court to overturn the decision. I read the Petition.

Just Asking: Is Mayor Bloomberg's No Hire List A Return To McCarthyism?

Why does the UFT and NYSUT allow the infamous "No Hire", "Ineligible" or "Inquiry" List to continue?

This list seems to be taken from the 1950's, where Joe McCarthy placed people who were communists, or he thought they were communists.

This is my understanding of the "Ineligible/No Hire List":
Whenever a complaint is lodged against an employee, whether or not it is true or proven, or an employee gets a U rating, this person gets a code number (83?) next to his or her name at the Office of Personnel Investigation (OPI) now under the supervision of Michelle Nacht and "CY" the former principal of the Washington Heights trailers ("rubber room") at 51 Chambers Street, 12th Floor.

I have been asking how and why this list exists, for years. Approximately 5.

No one at the DOE, UFT, or NYSUT, have given me a good explanation.

In the case of Philomena Brennan (see interim order below of New York State Supreme Court Judge Alice Schlesinger) Judge Schlesinger ordered Theresa Europe to give her how people get put onto the list and how these individuals get off. Ms. Europe immediately took Ms. Brennan off the list rather than give any information, which made this part of the Article 78 moot.

I think we need answers.

Betsy Combier

In the Matter of the Application of PHILOMENA BRENNAN, Petitioner, Index No. 112977/09 Motion Seq. No. 001 For An Order and Judgment Pursuant to Article 78 of the Civil Practice Law and Rules, -against-NEW YORK CITY DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION, Respondent.

Before this Court is an Article 78 petition wherein the petitioner Philomena Brennan is asking the Court to grant relief vis-a-vis two issues. One issue has to do with her desire to withdraw her resignation, as a teacher with the New York City Department of Education. The resignation occurred on September 5,2007. The second relief sought is her removal from an Ineligible/lnquiry list where she was placed on February 4,2009.

Some background is necessary. Ms. Brennan was a tenured teacher at that time she was assigned, in 2006 to Frederick Douglas Academy in Brooklyn. At some point, at the end of the school year, she indicates that she was approached by the principal Tamika Matheson who gave her an unsatisfactory rating, the first one she had ever received. Again, according to the petitioner a discussion between the principal and herself was held and pursuant to that discussion, Ms. Brennan decided to formally resign from her teaching position. In the ensuing period she did some substitute teaching. In January of2009, after a discussion with others, she decided to take steps to withdraw her resignation.

Again, according to Ms. Brennan, on January 30,2009 she returned to the Frederick Douglas Academy in order to talk to the principal. She said she saw the principal, was escorted to her office and told to wait a few moments and about ten minutes later she was arrested, handcuffed and charged with the Misdemeanor of Trespass and the Violation of Harassment.

Pursuant to rules, which Ms. Brennan knew, she immediately reported the arrest to the Department. Then, as a result of the arrest, she was placed on an Ineligible/lnquiry list. The presence of one's name on the list makes that person ineligible for rehire or for a teaching assignment. On June 10,2009 all charges were dismissed against Ms. Brennan. Shortly thereafter, either the next day or very soon after, Ms. Brennan made a formal request to have her name taken off this list. At the time she made that request she produced proof that all charges were dismissed. To this day, May 12, 2010, Ms. Brennan still has not been informed of whether or not her request to have her name struck from the list has been decided. On June 21, 2009 and again in January 2010, Ms. Brennan had what could be categorized as a hearing, but in actuality consisted of a short meeting wherein she again presented documentation that the charges against her were dismissed in their entirety.

She has also made attempts to withdraw her resignation. However, with regard to that relief, there is a condition for such withdrawal, the condition being that the teacher in petitioner's status must show the Department that there has been a written request to fill a vacancy by a regional manager of the department. In other words, it is not simply a ministerial act for the Chancellor to permit a resigned teacher to withdraw that resignation. There is a condition, as stated above, that first must be met. But of course, as petitioner argues, it is impossible for Ms. Brennan to meet this condition as long as she remains on the Ineligible list.

The respondent argues that with regard to the petitioner's request to have her name struck from the Ineligible list, that request via her Article 78 Petition is time barred. Counsel urges that the four month statute began running on February 4, 2009, when she was first placed on the list. That would mean that the moment that the charges were dismissed on June 9, she would have been barred from asking to have her name removed from the list. Frankly, this is an argument that makes no sense whatsoever. The petitioner pursuant to the responsibilities of a teacher knew that she had to report an arrest and did so. She was not legally aggrieved by her placement on the list in February because the charges were still pending. The time that she became aggrieved was after the charges were dismissed and after she made a demand to have her name removed from the list. Even then she was not yet aggrieved, because she was never given a decision denying her request to remove her name from the list. Therefore, she was not time barred in June 2009 when she made her first request and even though this Court does not have to reach this issue, she is not even time barred now. And certainly when she brought her petition on September 14, 2009 she was not time barred. (Biondo v. New York State Board of Parole, 60 NY2d 832 (1983)).

With regard to the withdrawal of her resignation, a resolution of that issue must await a determination of the Ineligible list issue. Therefore, the Court is directing the following.
First, the Department of Education is ordered to make a decision with regard to the continuation of Ms. Brennan's name on the Ineligible list within thirty days from today or by June 16, 2010 and notify petitioner promptly of this. The Department has no right to keep Ms. Brennan in a perpetual state of limbo by not making this decision. If the decision is adverse to her, clear reasons must be stated. I am adjourning this matter until July 7,2010 at 2:15 p.m. for further consideration of what relief is sought after a decision has been reached.

This decision constitutes the interim order of this Court
MAY 1 2 2010

NYC DOE is Hiring - If You Are Not Already On The DOE "No Hire" List

Special Projects and Operations Analyst - FACE
Tracking Code
Job Description
Please Note: Position only open to internal NYC Department of Education employees. 
Position Summary: The Special Projects and Operations Analyst provides budget and purchasing analysis and supports project management initiatives and events to further advance the Chancellor’s strategic priority aimed at promoting family engagement citywide for the Department of Education’s (DOE) Family and Community Engagement (FACE) Division.  Performs related work.
Reports to: Director of Operations 
Direct Reports: N/A 
Key Relationships: Works closely with the Director of Operations; Director of Communications; Central Business Office and various other DOE offices, as assigned. 
  • Purchase goods and services for the FACE Division and prepare and monitor the progress of budget modifications through the Financial Accounting Management Information System (FAMIS).
  • Analyze and prepare detailed Personal Service (PS) and Other Than Personal Service (OTPS) budget reports regarding the condition of FACE’s budget.
  • Prepares required procurement documentations, e.g., bids for processing of contract awards, registrations and modifications. 
  • Monitor the delivery of goods and services and prepare updates on procurement status.
  • Prepare charts, graphs and other related material to provide periodic reports on the budget.
  • Assist the Director of Operations in maintaining and revising systems and procedural manuals.
  • Provide support with the daily operating functions of the office, e.g., general supply inventory and metro card distribution. 
Project Management 
  • Support the team with event planning, and develop information materials for initiatives and/or events.
  • Develop goals and benchmarks to track project progress including communications strategy and rollout plans to schools/parents.
  • Capture key stakeholder feedback for utilization in policy development, project planning and implementation.
  • Support the development of FACE’s Citywide Best Practices Committee.
  • Provide regular project status updates to Senior Directors.
  • Represent the Division and provide support during evening and weekend parent meetings, workshops and events.  
Qualification Requirements: 
A baccalaureate degree from an accredited college. 
  • Ability to solve organizational roadblocks.
  • Project management experience and problem solving skills related to gathering, organizing, analyzing and presenting data.
  • Data analysis and presentation skills.
  • Writing, editing and communication skills.
  • Statistical and analytical skills. 
  • Familiarity with DOE informational systems.
  • Knowledge of budgeting, forecasting and financial reporting models.
  • Prior knowledge of, and experience in, education and/or government.
  • Excellent organizational, people and teamwork skills.
  • Strong results-oriented and quality performance work ethic.
  • Capable and detail-oriented multi-tasker who can prioritize and remain professional in demanding situations.
  • Ability to anticipate projects and take initiative.
  • Ability to learn quickly and succeed in a rapidly changing environment.
  • Advanced proficiency in computer software programs, particularly Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint. 
Salary: $35,686+
(Internal candidates who are selected for this position and who currently hold comparable or less senior positions within the DOE will not make less than their current salary.)
Please include a resume and cover letter with your application. 
Applications will be accepted through April 6, 2012.
NOTE: The filling of all positions is subject to budget availability and/or grant funding. 
It is the policy of the Department of Education of the City of New York to provide educational and employment opportunities without regard to race, color, religion, creed, ethnicity, national origin, alienage, citizenship status, age, marital status, partnership status, disability, sexual orientation, gender (sex), military status, prior record of arrest or conviction (except as permitted by law), predisposing genetic characteristics, or status as a victim of domestic violence, sexual offenses and stalking, and to maintain an environment free of harassment on any of the above-noted grounds, including sexual harassment or retaliation.  Inquiries regarding compliance with this equal opportunity policy may be directed to: Office of Equal Opportunity, 65 Court Street, Room 923, Brooklyn, New York 11201, or visit the OEO website at