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Saturday, April 28, 2012

Former Bloomberg Finance Chief Martha Stark Cited By Department of Investigation For Numerous Instances of Misconduct While In Office

What has the Bloomberg administration fraud and corruption got to do with "the Rubber Rooms of New York City"?
While Mayor Mike was and is, fiddling, New York was and continues, burning, and the public needs to see exactly what this fiddler did/is doing, now that we are about to have no choice but elect his deputies in November 2013 (I mean Scott Stringer, Christine Quinn, Bill De Blasio, Tom Allon).
 He will make sure of that. Does CityTime ring a bell? (If it does, still read the article posted at the end of the post on Martha Stark, below).
Martha Stark
April 27, 2012

In Report, Details of Misconduct Accusations Against Former Finance Chief

A former Bloomberg official asked a real estate company to help her domestic partner find an apartment just weeks after her agency sharply reduced the firm’s tax burden, and she was romantically involved with two subordinates, according to the results of a city investigation released on Friday.
The 111-page report from the Department of Investigation also found that the subordinates to the official, Martha E. Stark, a finance commissioner who resigned in April 2009 amid numerous investigations into her conduct, received sizable salary increases during the relationships.
The report found evidence that “contradicted her denials of personal relationships with subordinates and of never using her position to obtain any advantage for relatives or personal relations.” The report added, “The extent of Stark’s misconduct was compounded by multiple misrepresentations made after her conduct came under scrutiny.”
The report, released under a Freedom of Information request, was the bookend of a dismal professional week for Ms. Stark, a lecturer at Baruch College. On Tuesday, she was fined $22,000 by the city’s Conflicts of Interest Board, which reviewed the same accusations and primarily cited her for using a city computer account to send e-mails related to her paid service as a board member of a different real estate company.
In an interview on Friday, Ms. Stark’s lawyer, Richard W. Mark, questioned the findings. He noted that the city’s report was dated last June and suggested that the accusations, which were referred to the Manhattan district attorney for possible action, did not rise to the level of a criminal offense. He also argued that the Conflicts of Interest Board largely ignored many of the personal allegations that permeated the Department of Investigation report.
“Martha Stark led the Department of Finance for seven years with distinction,” he said. “She led the department into the 21st century. This report has personal and private information in it that really should not be part of any legitimate investigation.”
Until she was sidelined by the inquiries, Ms. Stark had been highly regarded for her stewardship of the agency, from 2002 to 2009, which assesses the city’s properties and collects tax revenue. Indeed, many groups still speak warmly about her professional abilities.
In the report, which draws heavily from Ms. Stark’s Department of Finance e-mails, perhaps the most damning e-mail is one she sent in 2007 to an official at a luxury real estate company soliciting a rental apartment for the woman then registered as her domestic partner, just two weeks after the company, Glenwood Management Corporation, had been notified that it had received a $17 million reduction in the assessed valuation of one building.
“I hope we did O.K. with your buildings,” Ms. Stark wrote. “If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us and we’ll take a look.” She continued that “a very good friend” was looking for an apartment. The Glenwood official found an apartment for the woman a month later.
In an interview with city investigators, the official, Charles Dorego, said Ms. Stark’s request had made him a bit “uncomfortable.” He also said he had “never gotten such a request from any other city official.” The report, however, indicates that the assessor responsible for evaluating Glenwood’s buildings told investigators that “he was certain that he had not been asked to lower the assessments for this property below what they should have been.”
The report devotes significant space to Ms. Stark’s personal relationships. She had denied in the news media any romantic relationship with a subordinate, Assistant Commissioner Dara Ottley-Brown. According to the report, Ms. Ottley-Brown’s salary rose to $138,013 in 2009, from $84,460 in 2003, while they were involved. But the report says Ms. Ottley-Brown acknowledged under oath that the two had had an affair.
The report also says that Ms. Stark had a romantic relationship with a graduate student she met at a lecture she gave while serving as commissioner. The woman then went to work at the agency at Ms. Stark’s suggestion as a $12.50-an-hour college aide in 2005, before becoming Ms. Stark’s special assistant, at $50,502 a year, and then chief of staff to an assistant commissioner, at $88,519 a year in 2009.

City honcho arranged for a love nest

TIGHT SQUEEZE: Ex-Finance commish Martha Stark (right), with one-time gal pal Dara Ottley-Brown, had an e-mail exchange with a real-estate big who set up an apartment for one of her other lovers.

Last Updated: 7:52 AM, April 28, 2012
Posted: 12:56 AM, April 28, 2012
Former city Finance Commissioner Martha Stark went above and beyond for her lovers — not only helping them get jobs at her city agency but also finding one an apartment after her office slashed the landlord’s tax bill, a damning Department of Investigation report reveals.
Stark’s partner was given a cut-rate apartment by real-estate giant Glenwood Management two weeks after it received a 30 percent reduction in its assessment at 1930 Broadway in 2007.
The Finance Department slashed the assessment by $17.37 million, to $43.8 million, reducing the firm’s annual property taxes by $700,000.
Stark’s assessors then “erroneously” reduced the assessment on the same building by an additional $2 million the year after it gave the commissioner’s partner the apartment.
Mayor Bloomberg called for the DOI probe after The Post reported that Stark promoted an underling while covering up their romantic relationship, gave relatives jobs and moonlighted for a real-estate firm on city time.
“How are you? I hope we did okay with your buildings. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us and we’ll take a look,” Stark wrote in a Jan. 30, 2007, e-mail on official letterhead to Glenwood Vice President Charles Dorego.
“Listen, a very good friend of mine is looking for an apartment and I told her how great the Glenwood buildings are. She’s looking for a studio or one bedroom on the Upper East Side.”
Stark then brazenly suggests that Hampton Court “seems like a great building” and asks about the rent.
“I have owned for so long that I’m out of the rental market for more than 20 years. Is there someone you would recommend that she speak with? Thanks for your help. I hope you’re well!!!!”
The DOI report said Glenwood’s Dorego, though “uncomfortable” with Stark’s request, treated her like a VIP. He talked to Stark’s partner, though he did not know they were romantically involved, DOI said.
Stark’s lover initially paid $2,600 a month for the high-end apartment, which DOI said was lower than what other tenants paid.
Dorego dealt with the Finance officials on Glenwood’s behalf and complained about the agency treating the firm’s properties “aggressively” on assessment issues. He communicated with one of Stark’s underlings, Dara Ottley-Brown.
DOI has referred this and other bombshell findings to the Manhattan DA’s Office for possible criminal prosecution.
DOI said the “juxtaposition” of Stark’s request for the apartment from Glenwood amid assessment reductions before and afterward is “evidence of a possible quid pro quo” and “potentially evidences a crime, certainly presents a conflict of interest, and reflects a significant appearance issue.”
“It is beyond question that a commissioner cannot ask for something from someone who comes before his or her agency — in this case annual property- tax assessments that result in the imposition of higher or lower taxes,” the report said, citing an abuse of authority that violated city conflict of interest rules.
In a statement released last night, Dorego defended his actions.
“Whatever Martha Stark was accused of has nothing to do with Glenwood and at no point in this investigation have we been charged with any wrongdoing,” Dorego said.
“I stand by my testimony — there was no quid pro quo between Glenwood and Ms. Stark — and anything to the contrary is conjecture . . . Inference of any wrongdoing on my or Glenwood’s part is ludicrous.”
The DOI report also confirmed other misconduct by Stark first uncovered by The Post:
* She had a romantic relationship with subordinate Ottley-Brown between 2003 and 2007, during which time she gave her lover promotions and huge pay raises. She also created a job for Ottley-Brown’s estranged husband.
At Stark’s request, City Hall appointed Ottley-Brown to sit on the Board of Standard of Appeals, where she earns $150,000 a year. Stark never revealed their relationshjp.
* Previously, Stark had an affair with another subordinate, a graduate student, who received multiple promotions and raises to $85,000 a year.


CityTime Payroll Scandal a Cautionary Tale, Wednesday, June 29, 2011 


Closing the city's $600 million dollar budget gap was not without tough trade offs. A thousand workers will lose their jobs, and to save $6 million dollars, the city will end its commitment to thousands of kids who had been promised college scholarships for keeping a B average. The shortfall that prompted the hard choices is roughly the same amount federal prosecutors say was involved in a massive case of contract fraud that has come to be shorthanded as CityTime. It's a cautionary tale of what can happen when the city drops the ball on oversight for just one of its 47,000 private contracts.
Preet Baharara, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, did not sugarcoat his description of the CityTime scandal when describing it earlier this month to reporters.
"The crimes alleged in today's superseding indictment are truly jaw dropping," said Baharara. "They reveal one of the most elaborate and massive schemes to defraud the city ever charged." The city's Department of Investigation, led by Rose Gill Hearn, initiated the case and brought it to Baharara's office on the sprawling case.
The irony here is rich. "The massive scheme" started as an outsourced city contract to design a payroll system that would precisely track the hours worked by city employees. After a couple of false starts with other vendors, defense contractor Scientific Applications International Corporation was awarded the job in a no-bid contract by the Giuliani Administration.
Under Mayor Bloomberg, the contract ballooned from $63 million where it had started out in the Giuliani years , to more than $700 million. Federal prosecutors now say at least $600 million of that was "tainted." At every level, federal prosecutors allege grafters had honeycombed CityTime in to a paragon of corruption.
"Between 2003 and 2010, the CityTime payroll project served as a vehicle for an unprecedented fraud, which appears to have metastasized over time," said Baharara.
The prime contractor was the defense contractor Scientific Applications International Corporation. The city's contract database notes SAIC has been the subject of "multiple investigations by the Department of Defense, the U.S. Department of Justice, NASA and the General Services Administration." Citing the criminal probe, SAIC had no comment for this story.
Back in 2005, prosecutors say SAIC got a whistleblower tip about company employee Gerald Denault, SAIC's CityTime manager, saying Denault was deliberately slowing down the project and raised the possibility he was taking kickbacks from subcontractors. Prosecutors say SAIC took a look for five months but found no evidence of wrongdoing.
Meanwhile, Denault continued on an upward corporate trajectory.
"Gerald Denault allegedly used his authority at SAIC to cause consultants to be hired at inflated rates, to artificially delay the implementation of the project, and to approve work orders for staffing increases that were not necessary," said Baharara.
Official oversight for this project rested with a three-person panel including Mayor Bloomberg's Budget Director Mark Page, a representative for than Comptroller Bill Thompson, and Joel Bondy, who led the Office of Payroll Administration up until he was fired after the first indictments came down last year. Despite this oversight, Attorney Baharara says the private contractors and consultants were able to manipulate the terms of their contracts and inflate the costs eleven times its original estimate. Bondy and Page declined to comment for this story.
"Because of their efforts, the contract went from a fixed-price contract to a fixed-price level of effort contract. What that meant is that from then on, it would be the city - not SAIC - that would become largely responsible for future cost overruns. What followed as described in the indictment was a dramatic acceleration in costs with the city on the hook for all of it," explained Baharara.
What prosecutors have yet to publicly discuss is the role played by former city officials from both the Giuliani and Bloomberg administrations that acted as lobbyists on behalf of SAIC and subcontractors such as New Jersey-based Technodyne.
This month Technodyne, and its husband-and-wife ownership team of Padma and Reedy Allen, were indicted for their role in the conspiracy that netted Technodyne $450 million dollars of city funds via SAIC. Prosecutors contend it was 80 percent of Technodyne's business.
The city's lobbying database shows a small army of former prominent city officials who did work for SAIC and Technodyne. Defense contractor SAIC has retained former City Comptroller Liz Holtzman, Peter Powers, who served as Mayor Giuliani's top deputy Mayor for operations, and Seth Kaye, who worked in both the Giuliani and Bloomberg administrations. Technodyne's lobbyists include former Bloomberg Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications Commissioner Gino Menchini and Agostino Cangemi, who also held key posts in both administrations.
National Strategies, the lobbying firm that employs Menchini and Cangemi, says the firm had no role in CityTime and discontinued working "on general business procurement" for Technodyne as soon as the criminal allegations surfaced. (Another Technodyne lobbyist of record, Sal Salamone, was director of the Mayor’s Office of Computer Planning and has worked for SAIC.) 
Watchdog group Common Cause Executive Director Susan Lerner says as the city increasingly turns to outside contractors, these contractors turn to former city employees as lobbyists to influence the contracts.
"Simultaneous with that shift, you get a massive explosion in lobbyists because now you are not just lobbying on behalf of a company that does or doesn't want certain regulation," she says. "Now you're lobbying on behalf of a company that is looking at a job which could be $400 million dollars worth of city money."
In December of last year, federal prosecutors and the DOI alleged initially that another nest of fraudsters had exploited CityTime, walking away with more than $80 million dollars. They charged that "subject matter expert" Mark Mazer, who was supposed to be monitoring the contract work on CityTime, had actually used his position to orchestrate an international kickback scheme.
At the time, Mayor Bloomberg tasked Deputy Mayor for Operations Stephen Goldsmith with evaluating the city's largest information technology contracts. Goldsmith conceded that the city had erred in sub-contracting even the quality assurance oversight of CityTime out to multiple layers of contractors. He vowed to have city employees play a more active role in monitoring contracts and conceded the migration of city officials into the world of contracting could be problematic.
"If a revolving door means you have city employees on the contractor side at higher salaries, I think there is some evidence of that and we are concerned about it," he told WNYC.
Meanwhile, Technodyne founders Reedy and Padma Allen have yet to be taken into custody. They are facing multiple counts of bribery and corruption on their 450 million share of the CityTime money. But finding them will be a challenge. City lobbying records list one of Technodyne's addresses as 576 Valley Road, a UPS mailbox in Wayne, New Jersey.
"They rented one of my big postal boxes, says Mr. Choi who owns the Wayne UPS Store. "I have not seen them for awhile but they are paid up through July." Prosecutors claim the Allens are now in India.
City Comptroller John Liu announced today that he is freezing $42 million of money left to be paid to SAIC pending the outcome of the federal investigation. And Liu joined the Financial Information Services Agency board of directors in approving a plan to transition management of payroll system away from outside contractors to city workers.
“This transition is possible because of the significant progress achieved due to the new paradigm we established in September forcing the project on the right track at no further expense to taxpayers to build the system," Liu said in a statement. "As we move forward, it is my hope that the city will be able to recoup every dollar stolen from taxpayers, and that the administration will continue to cut down on the use of outside consultants.”

Teacher Profiling in New York City

If you are a teacher in NYC you are a target.

That's the bad news. The good news is that the stupidity of the Department of Education is starting to show, as Hany Abdalla is arrested then released after one day. How does "sorry" remedy this situation? Why cant the DOE treat teachers and education employees like people, and stop criminalizing everyone and asking questions later?

Betsy Combier

Charges dropped against teacher's aide in upper West Side groping case

Married father of 3 freed after 2nd-grader's account disputed by other students and teachers

Hany Abdalla, an aide at Public School 84, leaves Manhattan Criminal Court on Thursday after allegations that he touched an 8-year-old student were ruled unfounded.
Comments (23)
Updated: Friday, April 27, 2012, 12:00 AM

An Upper West  Side public school aide who was arrested for sex abuse and fired was freed Thursday after the charges proved unfounded.
Hany Abdalla, a paraprofessional at Public School 84 on W.92nd Street,St., was accused of touching an 8-year-old girl and arrested Wednesday.
But the 35-year-old married father of three, who has worked at PS 84 since 2007, was freed Thursday and all charges were dropped.
His lawyer, Virginia LoPreto, said the accuser’s account was contradicted by teachers and other students in the second-grade class.
“There were serious questions about the validity of the allegations,” LoPreto said. “We can only hope that the rumors that this was motivated by ethnic bias are untrue.”
At least seven city school workers have been arrested for sex crimes involving students in 2012.
Education officials said that Abdalla had no previous investigations by school authorities or police.

Miramonte Elementary Teachers Are Still Holed Up on An Empty Campus Learning How to Knit and Sew

The Los Angeles Rubber Room

LAUSD took drastic measures this February when it discovered that not one but two teachers on the Miramonte Elementary school campus were accused of being really inappropriate with students. It relocated the rest of the staff to the unopened school of Augustus Hawkins High School in South Los Angeles. The district says in the meantime they're investigating the full story at Miramonte.
So what are these teachers doing at Augustus Hawkins? A reporter from Fox tried to catch up with the teachers as they left, but he didn't have too much luck. Finally, he ran into one teacher (whose name we couldn't catch) who wasn't shy about saying what life was like for a teacher not teaching kids: "It feels like we're on an island...Gilligan's Island...We have to be here from 7:25 am until 2:15 pm and then we're released into society."
The man said that the teachers are working on curriculum development, but mostly they're just passing the time with busywork. He said they're even learning how to knit and sew. It sounds like the "Rubber Room" of New York City.
The teacher's union is pretty pissed off about this and are demanding that the teachers be put back in the classroom: "The district is wrongly and unfairly punishing and stigmatizing dozens of completely innocent employees and depriving hundreds of students of a consistent education. UTLA demands you return the Miramonte staff to their worksite and allow the school's students, staff and community to begin healing."