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Tuesday, April 29, 2014

3020-a Arbitrator Lana Flame, the TPU, and a Conspiracy of Harm

The NYC DOE/UFT Panel of Arbitrators chosen by the Department of Education and NYSUT to hear 3020-a hearings are a motley crew.

Over the past 10+ years I have observed arbitrators destroy lives, and exonerate, depending upon many different circumstances. No 3020-a case is similar to any other, and always the outcome cannot be predicted. But sometimes Arbitrators show that they are not fair or neutral, at the start and throughout the hearing.  One such person who demonstrated prejudice at a 3020-a which I attended was Lana Flame, Esq., who is, fortunately, off of the Panel at this time.

Ms. Flame started in September 2012, and the DOE Attorneys who prosecuted the cases with her were Attorneys Dilia Travieso, and then Gabriela Antioco.

Below is one of the horror stories which shows how Ms. Flame worked with the Teacher Performance Unit, Attorneys Dilia Travieso, Gabriela Antioco, and the rest of the TPU personnel (Dennis Da Costa and Naeemah Lamont) to deny due process to a teacher brought up on 3020-a charges . I have omitted this person's name to preserve her privacy.

After the closing arguments were presented by both the private attorney and Ms. Antioco on May 1, 2013, the waiting began. Suddenly, in June, the teacher received an invoice for overpayment of salary from the DOE. They said that she had been terminated and there was an error at the DOE. She was directed to pay it back.

She had not received Lana Flame's decision, and until she did receive it, she was on the payroll, she assumed. She started trying to fix this error. At the end of July, 2013, July 20, to be exact, she received the decision of Lana Flame in the mail from New York State Education Department Office of Teaching Initiatives.  She was terminated.

Meanwhile, she kept trying to fix the error of the "overpayment" of salary in June. Then she received The Letter below, by accident. The letter is dated May 28, 2013, and was sent from Dennis DaCosta, Deputy Director of the Teacher Performance Unit, to 37 people. The teacher's file # and social security number was sent to everyone. She was put on the Ineligible/Inquiry List - her name, SS # and file is now tagged with a "problem code" (that Amy Arundell at the UFT tells people who ask her, it doesn't exist.).

I find this letter to be shocking in its' violation of this teacher's due process. Either Flame worked with Dennis DaCosta when she was deciding the case, or, Dennis and Naeemah Lamont may have even helped her write her decision or created the entire decision themselves. This information I don't have. However, what this letter does show is, on May 28, 2013 Dennis Da Costa sent a letter to about 36 people at the DOE (he is #37) telling them that effective May 28, 2013, the teacher is terminated immediately. He directs the principal who charged her and who found probable cause for the charges (and testified in support of the charges at the 3020-a), Ms. Margaret Lacey-Berman, to remove her from the payroll.

But the process of 3020-a says that the Arbitrator makes the decision 30 days after the transcripts are received, and then sends the decision to New York State Education Department, who then send it out to the teacher. Obviously, at least in this case, the Arbitrator worked together with the TPU and made the decision of termination with the help of the TPU employees.

Who are all these people who now have the teacher's file number and social security number?

 Some are very low on the totem pole, like Harlyn Griffenberg:

She gives herself the title of paralegal, and/or DOE investigator. She writes notes, giggles, and talks about people while they testify in the 3020-a hearing room.
Harlan Griffenberg
Frighteningly inappropriate.
My two cents.
Betsy Combier