Join the GOOGLE +Rubber Room Community

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The XEROX Machine Incident at The Gotcha Squad

The picture above is a copy machine. This particular copier is located in the left corner of The Gotcha Squad's sixth floor waiting room, right behind the receptionist where people arriving for grievances or 3020a arbitration sign in. Today, May 10, 2011, about eight people were sitting in this room in addition to me and the respondent of the case in which I am assisting the private lawyer as his paralegal, when an incident involving this very machine occurred that is too good not to pass on.

The backstory is, as I have written previously, since 2003 how I have sat in on public hearings of tenured teachers when asked by the respondent tenured employee to do so, and I have observed the lawyers, witnesses, arbitrators, and guests. No one has ever paid me to be there, so my mountains of material written about the 3020-a process in New York City is my material and mine alone.

I have helped teachers calm down - teachers should be in the classroom and not on trial - and helped investigate Principals, Assistant Principals, and any other administrator as to what they are doing in their schools - for example, complying with federal special education laws, financial recordkeeping, harassment, etc. Someone has to do it and hold these people accountable for their actions. I do that. I look at their collaborators too (non-administrators who help the bad guys/gals) .

The personnel of the New York City Department of Education Administrative Trials Unit and TPU hate me for my diligence in appearing 2-4 times per week, and staying all day until the last word has been said. Almost all NYSUT Attorneys no longer speak with me even to say hello, because of my research into cases they have lost. In fact, when I worked for the UFT part-time, (I no longer work for the UFT) Leroy Barr, Ellie Engler and Gary Sprung told me to stop attending hearings at 51 Chambers Street because "this was bad for them". As I had a clause in my agreement to continue doing whatever I had done in the past in my own time, I gently told the UFT that as the members were being tortured at the 3020-a, someone had to be there to protect the members' due process rights, so I just kept going whenever asked. The issue that I will be addressing in the future is the possible collusion of the UFT and NYSUT with The Gotcha Squad at 3020-a hearings. But for now, I have my trusty disposable pen (at TD Bank, they are free!), and I like pads that have graph paper instead of lines. Why, I dont know. And no, Theresa (Europe), I never have brought a tape recorder to the hearings even though in New York State it is legal to  secretly tape anyone with whom I am in a conversation.

I am, of course, writing a book.

All the people who work for the Gotcha Squad now or in the past have a very good chance of appearing in my book, but one person is definitely going to be in there: NYC Department Attorney Victor Muallem. I have sat in on several hearings where Victor was the DOE Attorney. In my opinion, he is one of the most incompetent attorneys I have seen, and the DOE does dig their attorneys up from the bottom of the barrel. I have asked many people why Victor acts like he owns the place, and everyone there simply shrugs and says that that's the way things are. Same with Ms. Sylvia Cheeks, who assigns hearing rooms. If she catches you in a hallway and you look like you dont know what is going on, Sylvia will tell you you have to sit in the waiting room (see picture above), sorry. According to sources she has no title, but took on this role because she can now tell people where to go. Literally.

So, lets get back to this morning, May 10, 2011. I arrived early like I usually do, around 9:30AM for a 10 o'clock start time for the teacher's hearing. The teacher showed up and we, I as the paralegal,  started going over the documents that were going to be used in the hearing at which Assistant Principal Francine Palmer-Mullings would be testifying today about how this math teacher was criminally incompetent and must be terminated. About a month ago more than half the school walked out in protest of this teacher's removal Fordham Leadership Academy For Business and Technology located in the Bronx, but AP Palmer-Mullings remembered none of that. She did not see all the students wearing t-shirts with this teacher's name on them, either. Nope, totally zoned out of everything except that this teacher must be terminated. Palmer-Mullings has quite a few skeletons in her closet, but the DOE Attorney on this case, Ms. Dilia Travieso, objected strongly to Arbitrator Roy Watanabe whenever any of that was brought in. (In Watanabe's favor, he did allow testimony about Palmer-Mullings being found guilty of pocketing $7000 that belonged to the robotics club, substantiated by Special Commissioner of Investigation or SCI. (Now we'll see whether Watanabe allows the issue of her taking excessive per session pay or not, and whether she was on more than one budget line at the school, and even whether she has a green Card).

So, there I and the teacher were, looking through documents in preparation for cross examination of Palmer-Mullings by the teacher's Attorney, who put me in the record as his paralegal, and Watanabe accepted this. The teacher needed a few pages copied, so I went over to the copy machine (the one in the picture at the top) and put the papers in the feeder and pressed start.

The new receptionist (she has been in her job a few months, Monday-wednesday) came up behind me and told me that the copy machine was only for lawyers, and I could not use it because I am not an attorney. I asked her if this was a new policy, and if it was written down, but all she knew was that I had to move away, pronto. That was news, as I and everyone else have used this machine since it appeared  I believe in September. I nicely told her that I was assisting the attorney in the 3020-a as his paralegal, and he needed the papers. She left the room, I finished one set, and went back to the far end of the room to sit down next to the teacher.

Suddenly, everyone in the room jumped out of their chairs as round little Victor Muallem came running into the area screaming at the top of his lungs (well, I dont know that for a fact, but he was VERY loud),
"if THAT woman (pointing his outstretched arm and finger at me) uses the copy machine, or tries to use it, I will call security and have her escorted out of the building."

He was so mad that he was shaking with rage. The room was completely silent (although I admit to  giggling). If I had not been part of the teacher's team at the 3020-a hearing on for today, I would have possibly told Victor that I saw no written policy, and therefore would use the machine until a written policy was produced. But I knew that Victor would escort me out with security and then I would have some media coverage for being thrown out of 51 Chambers street for using - or attempting to use - the copy machine on the sixth floor (is it public funds that pays for the upkeep and buys the paper???), but I'll have to get thrown out on another day - specially set up with the proper cameras outside to catch everything.

Victor is serious about throwing people out. The teacher whose hearing was today wanted to talk to his previous attorney at the beginning of his hearing, and they both went into an empty small room to discuss the case. Victor found them and screamed that they must leave immediately, the rooms belong to the Department and cannot be used by anyone else (the teacher is still an employee). The lawyer said that he wanted to stay, to discuss the case, and Victor called security and had the lawyer escorted downstairs and out of the building. From that day on, the Attorney was not allowed upstairs to the sixth floor without a security guard with him. He withdrew from the case and told the teacher to resign.

This is how they run things at The Gotcha Squad.

Gary - thanks for your help.

Betsy Combier