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Monday, February 1, 2010

NYC BOE Attorney Joel I Klein Hires Maura Keaney As Executive Director of "External Afffairs" One Day After COIB Fines Her


Now isn't this interesting. Joel Klein, the Attorney who calls himself the Chancellor (without a contract) of the New York City Schools hires a woman named Maura Keaney - despite a hiring freeze - for the position as "Executive Director" of the Office of External Affairs - whatever that is - exactly one day after the Conflicts of Interest Board fines her for violating city law by soliciting campaign contributions for Ms. Christine Quinn while working at NY City Council.

C'mon, Joel, you need to put your foot where your mouth is.

Betsy Combier

From: Communications
Sent: Monday, February 01, 2010 2:44 PM
To: &All Tweed; &All Central HQ


February 1, 2010

N-43, 2009-10


Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein today announced the appointment of Maura Keaney as the Department of Education’s Executive Director of External Affairs. Ms. Keaney will oversee the Department’s legislative and government affairs, media relations, community relations, and family engagement and advocacy. Ms. Keaney most recently served as Field Director of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s 2009 re-election campaign. She previously served as Deputy Chief of Staff to City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn and Deputy National Political Director and New York State Political Director of UNITE HERE. She succeeds Micah Lasher, whom Mayor Bloomberg has appointed to serve as the City’s Director of State Legislative Affairs.

“Maura is an innovative thinker and advocate with a record of serving the interest of New Yorkers from positions both in and outside of government,” Chancellor Klein said. “Her experience in working with large and diverse communities across the City will be an enormous asset as we continue our work over the next four years to transform public schools.”

“Maura has consistently proven herself to be one of the most passionate and hardest working public servants in New York City,” Speaker Quinn said. “For years I was fortunate enough to have Maura as an integral part of my team, and our schoolchildren will be lucky to have her talent and experience working for them.”

“Working with the DOE to build on its school reforms is as exciting an opportunity as I could hope for,” Ms. Keaney said. “I’m extremely grateful that I will be part of an effort that will make our City better for families, and especially children.”

Ms. Keaney will join the Department of Education on February 3.

Contact: David Cantor (212) 374-5141

February 2, 2010
Ethics Panel Fines Ex-Aide to Speaker

A former deputy chief of staff to Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn who recently served as a top aide to Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s re-election effort has been fined for violating city law by soliciting campaign contributions for Ms. Quinn while working for her.

In announcing the sanction on Monday, the city’s Conflicts of Interest Board said in a statement that around April 2007, the former aide, Maura Keaney, made between six and a dozen phone calls to union representatives to ask them to be on the host committee for a fund-raising event for Ms. Quinn’s re-election bid. The ethics board, which fined Ms. Keaney $2,500, noted that serving on the host committee required a campaign contribution.

The board noted that it is generally illegal for high-ranking appointed city officials to make these solicitations and that Ms. Keaney “acknowledged that she violated the city’s conflicts of interest law, which prohibits an individual with substantial policy discretion, such as she was at the time,” from seeking donations for a city elected official or candidate for office.

At the time that Ms. Keaney was helping to arrange the May 14 fund-raiser at the large union called Unite Here — where she had once been a political director — she was also working on a key piece of legislation with serious advantages for the city’s labor unions. She played a major role in drafting a law to overhaul the city’s campaign finance system that excluded New York’s powerful unions from new strictures on the amount of money that companies and individuals doing business with the city can provide to candidates.

Early last year, Ms. Keaney, with her access to organized labor, quit her post with the speaker to take a job with Mr. Bloomberg to run field operations for his re-election bid. After the mayor’s victory, she got a $150,000 bonus from him for overseeing his get-out-the-vote operation, one that helped to produce a smaller than expected margin of victory for an incumbent who spent in excess of $100 million to win a third term.

And on Monday, several hours after the Conflicts of Interest Board announced its settlement with Ms. Keaney, the chancellor of New York City schools, Joel I. Klein, announced that Ms. Keaney had been appointed executive director of external affairs for the city’s Department of Education.

Ms. Keaney’s responsibilities will include overseeing the department’s legislative and government affairs and media and community relations. Ms. Keaney had been in talks to take the senior-level job for several weeks. She will be paid $143,000 annually.

“Maura has been a committed and energetic public servant and was a valued employee of the City Council,” Ms. Quinn said. “I am confident she will continue to find ways to serve New Yorkers in the future.”

At the time of the fund-raiser in question, Ms. Quinn was said to be considering a run for mayor, but eventually sought and won re-election to the Council in 2009. Ms. Keaney’s role in the fund-raiser was disclosed in a New York Times article in October in which she would then say only, via an e-mail message, “This event was two and a half years ago, and I just don’t remember that much about it.”

But in statements given to the Conflicts of Interest Board that it released on Monday, she was able to provide significant details about her role in planning the event, for which tickets cost $250 and $500 a person. “During a discussion of fund-raising ideas for the re-election campaign of Council Speaker Quinn, I volunteered to assist with a fund-raising event planned for labor unions,” she said in the stipulation and disposition. “Shortly thereafter, I made between approximately 6 and 12 calls to union representatives to ask that they serve on the host committee for the event, which role would have required a contribution.” She added in the documents that she also contacted Unite Here to ask the union to donate space for the event.

On Monday, Ms. Keaney did not return a call or respond to an e-mail message seeking comment. But her lawyer, Arnold N. Kriss, said in an e-mail message, “Maura had no intention to violate the City Charter when she made a small number of volunteer fund-raising calls on her own time, not on city property” and “using her personal telephone.”

Ms. Keaney told the Conflicts of Interest Board, according to its documents, that she stopped making the calls to the unions after Ms. Quinn’s chief of staff told her that they were “inappropriate.” She added, “I stopped immediately and had no further involvement in campaign fund-raising for Council Speaker Quinn while I served as her deputy chief of staff.”

Asked why the Council’s chief of staff, Charles E. Meara, did not notify the Conflicts of Interest Board about Ms. Keaney’s union calls, a Quinn spokesman, Jamie McShane, said, “Managers clearly have discretion when there is a one-time, self-corrected error.”

Asked whether Ms. Quinn would return the labor money raised as a result of the calls, Josh Isay, a political consultant to Ms. Quinn, said she would not. “These are all longtime supporters of her campaigns,” he said.

Mr. Kriss said that about a week after Ms. Keaney read The Times’s account of her solicitations to union officials, he contacted the Conflicts of Interest Board on her behalf to discuss the matter.

Michael Barbaro contributed reporting.

UFT and the NAACP File a Lawsuit To Stop Joel Klein From Closing 19 Schools

February 1, 2010, 5:09 pm
Teachers’ Union and N.A.A.C.P. Sue to Stop School Closings

The city’s teachers’ union and the N.A.A.C.P. filed a lawsuit on Monday to block the closing of 19 schools for poor performance, charging that the city “studiously ignored” provisions of state law as it moved forward in its process to shutter the schools.

The suit charges that the city did not conduct the required analysis of how the closings would affect the more than 13,000 students who attend the schools, particularly special education and other high-needs populations, and that it failed to analyze how the closings would affect the other, often overcrowded schools nearby.

Instead, the suit charges that the Educational Impact Statements for each closed school, which were mandated by the new mayoral control law passed by the Legislature last year, contained boilerplate language and insufficient detail.

For example, for Paul Robeson High School, a closing Brooklyn school with special programs for young mothers and other at-risk youth, the impact statement summarized the “community ramifications” with this vague paragraph:

“Approximately 1,020 high school seats will be eliminated by the phase-out of Paul Robeson High School. However, the majority of those seats will be recovered with the phase-in of new schools throughout the city and available seats in existing high schools.”

Filed in State Supreme Court in Manhattan, the suit also alleges that the city failed to provide appropriate notice of public hearings and made other procedural errors in the run-up to last Tuesday, when the Panel for Educational Policy, a 13-member board controlled by the mayor, voted to close the schools after a raucous, eight-hour long hearing attended by thousands of protesters.

For weeks, city officials have been promoting the message that the teachers’ union is ginning up much of the opposition to the closings, for political reasons and to save jobs. The union is engaged in protracted contract negotiations with City Hall, and faces 2,500 potential layoffs if it doesn’t agree to cut its members’ raises from 4 percent per year to between 1.4 percent and 2 percent.

In the past few days, however, the mayor’s office has expressed particular displeasure with the joining of the lawsuit by the N.A.A.C.P., the 100-year-old civil rights organization.

“Why the N.A.A.C.P joined a lawsuit to keep persistently failing schools open is mind-boggling and incredible,” Deputy Mayor Dennis M. Walcott said on Monday. As for the procedural violations alleged by the suit, Mr. Walcott said, “We feel we’ve met the letter of the law, but that’s going to be discussed in court.”

Hazel N. Dukes, the N.A.A.C.P. state president, objected Monday to how her organization was being portrayed by City Hall.

“We are not puppets for the U.F.T. or elected officials,” she said at a news conference. “We are here because parents have made complaints about their children not receiving their rights in the school system here.”

Also named as plaintiffs in the suit are: Scott M. Stringer, the Manhattan borough president; the Alliance for Quality Education, a non-profit organization; four state legislators; five City Council members; and parents and teachers from the closing schools.

United Federation of Teachers sues in effort to block closure of 19 city schools
BY Meredith Kolodner, DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER, February 1, 2010

The city's teachers union will file a lawsuit Monday in a bid to block the closure of 19 schools - ramping up its already antagonistic relationship with City Hall.

The United Federation of Teachers lawsuit accuses the city of violating the state mayoral control law by failing to account for the impact of the shutdowns on the community.

Advocates complained last week that the Education Department did not give proper notice about replacement schools before the Panel for Educational Policy voted Wednesday to approve the closures.

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People was in talks about joining the lawsuit, sources said. NAACP officials refused to comment yesterday.

A UFT lawsuit last year over the proposed closure of three other schools led the city to abandon its plans. None of those schools is on the closure list this year, having all received A's on recent city report cards.

Schools Chancellor Joel Klein defended the 19 closures yesterday - and slammed the UFT for feeding the frenzy at the raucous meeting at which they were approved.

"There are a lot of other people stirring this up," Klein said on Channel 7. "A lot of people who spoke at that meeting were union leaders and chapter leaders."

UFT President Michael Mulgrew acknowledged the union provided 50 buses for parents and teachers to travel to the Brooklyn meeting, but he denied that the thousands who attended were pushed by the union. "The fact that teachers and the community were standing together, that's what should be the takeaway for the chancellor," Mulgrew said.

The UFT is in a protracted contract dispute with the city.

Mayor Bloomberg said last week the union would have to accept 2% pay raises up to a maximum of $1,400 - or face 2,500