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Saturday, April 19, 2014

How Bad Is NYSUT as Providers of Due Process at 3020-a Arbitration?

My opinion is that the NYSUT/UFT "play along to get along" with Mike Bloomberg has caused the destruction of the lives of hundreds, if not thousands of effective, professional, caring teachers and staff of the New York City Board/Department of Education ....all members of the UFT....for at least the past 10 years. Their goal was to get tenured teachers out of public schools because Mike Bloomberg hated tenure protections and the thought that someone could not be fired in a second for no reason other than that the administrator wanted this person gone. This is good business, says Mike and Jack Welch (pictured below).


I guess everyone knows that you do not have to use NYSUT to defend at 3020-a. Right?
You can use a private Attorney and team, use a friend/advocate as your assistant, or you can do the 3020-a yourself  "Pro se"  

My telephone number is 212-794-8902 and my email address is betsy.combier@gmail.com; you can call me to ask questions about how 3020-a arbitration works.

Thus you should find out what you need to know by seeking information on your own. A person brought to 3020-a arbitration is given paperwork with Education Law 3020-a when they are charged. Few read it. Everyone should, but teachers seldom are lawyers too, so they rely on their NYSUT Attorney to tell them what it says.

That's a mistake.

Why is it a mistake? Because your Union, the UFT, and the NYSUT lawyers contracted to protect your due process rights at 3020-a, neglect to do that. For example, if you are charged with misconduct, you may get an email from Virginia Lopreto, a criminal attorney who works on contract to NYSUT. If you actually get to speak with Ms. Lopreto you are lucky. She will tell OSI, SCI, OEO that you refuse to speak with any of them, and then you will never hear from her. Here is a letter written by a member who had that experience (I have removed the name of the member, because victim's names are not important):

"Dear Ms. LoPreto:
My name is                   (                    to you because you never got my name right). My case was assigned to you because I am a UFT member who has been a victim of a false accusation. I received an email sent by your secretary, which was a copy of the email you sent to Ron Vance, fromthe SCI.  The second and last email that you sent to me was a copy of an email you sent to Mr. Vance, stating that I have the right not to answer his questions. After that, I called your office several times with questions that were never answered. In fact, I could never get in touch with you either by phone or in person. You didn't offer me any support, knowing that I didn’t even have knowledge of the accusations leveled against me. I felt very uncomfortable when told by Mr. Vance, at the time that he had been trying to get my declaration over the phone without legal representation or witness,  that if the UFT lawyer will tell me not to provide information to him, that he would end up closing my case. I wanted to share that with you and I needed some of my questions answered, but it never happen. On May 14, I received the report of the investigation and a letter from the superintendent on May 23th. I faxed both those documents to you. I called your office seeking advice on what to do next and you never even returned my calls. I kept calling until a substitute to your secretary called me back and said that you were not going to continue with my case and that if I wanted to proceed I just needed to go back to the UFT, something you did not even have  the decency to tell me directly. I asked him if he could send an email stating your decision and he replied that you were not going to send me anything.

In sum, I really didn't appreciate your treatment. It is not you not proceeding with the case that is particularly troublesome, but you not even bothering to show due respect and consideration to people without whom you wouldn’t even be here. You work for the union because we make it possible for you to get a salary, and there is just no room or excuse for your lack of courtesy to people you have moral, professional and ethical obligation to defend.
I cannot even say it was a pleasure meeting you because you did not even make that possible."

See an email from NYSUT Attorney Paul Brown, to a client who fired him when she received this:

"From: Paul Brown <pbrown@nysutmail.org>
To:
Sent: Wed,  2013
Subject: Re: - WITNESSES

I have an ethical obligation not to put on witnesses that I believe will be damaging to your case.  I have confirmed with one of my supervisors and with several colleagues at my office that the witnesses you suggested will offer little, if any, substantive value and will open the door to many more potential problems. .....
Please call me should you have any further questions.

Paul K. Brown
New York State United Teachers
Below is the Education Law 3020-a (1) and (2)(a):

NY CLS Educ § 3020-a  (2014)


§ 3020-a.  Disciplinary procedures and penalties

   1. Filing of charges. All charges against a person enjoying the benefits of tenure as provided in subdivision three of section [fig 1]
 eleven hundred two, and sections [fig 2] twenty-five hundred nine, [fig 3] twenty-five hundred seventy-three, twenty-five hundred ninety-j, three thousand twelve and three thousand fourteen of this chapter shall be in writing and filed with the clerk or secretary of the school district or employing board during the period between the actual opening and closing of the school year for which the employed is normally required to serve. Except as provided in subdivision eight of section [fig 4] twenty-five hundred seventy-three and subdivision seven of section twenty-five hundred ninety-j of this chapter, no charges under this section shall be brought more than three years after the occurrence of the alleged incompetency or misconduct, except when the charge is of misconduct constituting a crime when committed.
 
2. Disposition of charges.

a. Upon receipt of the charges, the clerk or secretary of the school district or employing board shall immediately notify said board thereof. Within five days after receipt of charges, the employing board, in executive session, shall determine, by a vote of a majority of all the members of such board, whether probable cause exists to bring a disciplinary proceeding against an employee pursuant to this section. If such determination is affirmative, a written statement specifying [i] the charges in detail, [ii] the maximum penalty which will be imposed by the board if the employee does not request a hearing or that will be sought by the board if the employee is found guilty of the charges after a hearing and [fig 1] [iii] the employee's rights under this section, shall be immediately forwarded to the accused employee by certified or registered mail, return receipt requested or by personal delivery to the employee.
New York State School Boards Association is no fan of teachers' rights, either:
See ON BOARD from 2007

However, as NYC has no school board, NYC is not technically a member of NYSSBA. Several years ago I went to the NYSSBA annual conference as Press at the NY Sheraton Hotel, and sat at the only table with any seats, the NYC table. I sat next to Courtenaye Jackson-Chase. At the same table were leading names from the Office of Legal Services, such as Judy Nathan. In the program, my name and the name of the former General Counsel (before Courtenaye), Michael Best, Esq. were listed as representing New York City. I sent the post below to a listserv, nyceducationnews on October 28, 2007:

"To all:
As a paralegal and a non-Attorney, I attended an all day seminar on School Law held at the Sheraton Hotel on Thursday, October 25, 2007. The seminar was part of the New York State School Boards Association conference.
The book that all participants received describes Open Meetings Law and the requirement that all Executive Sessions of a public body be voted on in a full meeting, and minutes are taken during the subsequent Executive Session where a majority votes on probable cause.
Therefore, all the votes taken and teachers terminated by a vote of the PEP members in Executive Session over the past 5 years are contrary to the law. The NYC BOE has required all persons interested in obtaining a copy of the tape of each meeting to file a Freedom of Information request, therefore the NYC BOE has substantiated the belief that the PEP is a public body. A powerless one, as Michael Best wrote to me “The PEP has no administrative or executive functions”.
Further news distressing to anyone in the New York City school district (NYC and boroughs) who would like to have any voice at all in creating policy or deciding complaints/issues: New York City has the largest school system in the nation, but was not represented at the NYSSBA conference. The only attendees listed from NYC Area 13 were me and Michael Best, a presenter of the “Contract For Excellence” session. Two other people from NYC (who kindly sat next to me at my table) were Ms. Judy Nathan and Ms. Courtenaye Jackson-Chase, both listed as “Attorney” for the NYC BOE.
We thus have a quasi-legal system set up to prevent any opposition to a resolution/vote/consent set by the Mayor/Mr. Klein.........
We have no right to get an independent decision on any complaints we may have, as everyone making decisions on grievances/special education hearings belong to Joel and Mike.
Gosh, how could we get in this position?"
David Bloomfield answered with Open Meetings Law, Sections 105 and 106
As we all now know, NYC does not have a school board/employing board and no longer has Executive Sessions at the PEP meetings. When the PEP did hold Executive Sessions, the group violated Open Meetings Law Section 105 by having the Session before the public meeting began. I used to speak at the public meeting part of the monthly PEP meeting, and ask for the reason for that, as well as a tally of each member's vote. Joel Klein would not nicely tell me to sit down, shut up and my time was up. I would say that my time was not up, but he would not give me an answer. Still don't have one.

In fact, if you look at the Notice of Determination of Probable Cause (paperwork sent to all teachers/employees charged with 3020-a), the date of the Executive Session at which probable cause was voted on, is blank. I posted the probable cause notice received by Francesco Portelos with his permission. There is no date for the Executive Session listed. Superintendent Erminio Claudia
Superintendent Cludia

testified at Francesco's 3020-a that there WAS an "Executive Session", namely when she met with "legal" on Francesco's case and they "found" probable cause for his charges. I would suggest that this meeting is not what is cited in the law, Open Meetings Law, or 3020-a(2)(a). Where did she get this version?

So in all cases brought to 3020-a arbitration, probable cause is determined improperly. Without the proper determination of probable cause according to Education Law 3020-a (1) and (2)(a), arbitrators appointed to hear 3020-a cases have no subject matter jurisdiction to decide on whether there is Just Cause for any penalty.

This is what NYSUT doesn't want you to know. In fact, your NYSUT attorney may rush you into a pre-hearing and then a full hearing/resignation/retirement/fine and settlement without any time to discuss the charges against you. NYSUT states in letters to those who opt to hire a private attorney or advocate, or do the 3020-a themselves:

"...changes to the Education Law negotiated by the UFT and the Board supercede the statutory provisions. Even though you are not utilizing NYSUT legal counsel, your case must be processed pursuant to the disciplinary procedures negotiated by the UFT and the Board. You do not have the right for your case to go forward pursuant to the Educational Law as it exists without the negotiated changes contained in Article 21 (G).(scroll to p. 113)."

No mention of probable cause found as required by Education Law 3020-a. But NYSUT isn't saying that the Law isn't there, just that you cannot use it for your case.

Bulloney.

This is, in my thinking, the biggest error of NYSUT representation. Because without a probable cause determination in an Executive Session of the employing board, and a vote by a majority of members, you are left with anyone "finding" probable cause, and charging you with something that may or may not be true. The arbitrator hears only what the NYC DOE wants him/her to hear.

But arbitrators on the NYC permanent panel are paid $1400/day, and if they agree that probable cause has not been properly determined they wont get paid. So the arbitrators deny the dismissal of the case on any grounds, or there will be no payment coming their way.

Teacher discipline and termination are what the Department of Education calls "their business". It's not only a business, it's a partnership. With NYSUT and the UFT.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

From reading your post it is clearly evident that that the DOE did not use legitimate legal process to discipline and terminate teachers. So many have been wrongfully accused with their careers ruined by a body and arbitration process that is acting as if they are a true legal body, and a union that is at best, complacent in their role in guiding and defending professionals in a disciplinary process. SCI has their own corrupt elements, which has wrongfully destroyed innocent people. Not everyone has the resources to hire their own attorney. I believe the only way to remedy this cancer is a class action lawsuit where all those who have been subjected to this extermination program can receive restitution.

Anonymous said...

Awaiting your write up on Lana Flame. She has hurt too many good people not to be exposed for what she is. Thank you.

your NYSUT lawyer probably stinks said...

I underwent a 3020a in upstate NY - my NYSUT attorney tried to browbeat me into a settlement even when I knew the charges brought against me were not justified. She agreed to have my hearing at the school district's law firm offices "because there was air conditioning". She frequently met with the opposing attorney and hearing officer privately during the hearing, and made decisions without consulting me. In addition, she repeatedly threatened to not represent me whenever I questioned her decision making. Moreover, she put up absolutely no fight when the district ( with their case falling apart and witnesses non-existent) made motions to postpone the hearing for monyhs. My advice - if Laura Haller is appointed as your legal council in a 3020a hearing by NYSUT , you're not in good hands. I know your writing pertains to NYC cases - but anyone reading this should be aware of NYSUT incompetence upstate as well.