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Saturday, June 2, 2012

The NYSUT, UFT, and DOE's Dirty Word: "Blogger"

I love when I hear that someone has been told "dont speak with Betsy, she's a blogger" because this means that I am on to something that is going wrong, is unlawful, or needs to be kept hidden. Attorney Cheryl Smith Massena, for example, on November 2, 2011 told Arbitrator Stephen O'Beirne at a 3020-a hearing that he should close the hearing when the student witness came in to testify, because "Ms. Combier is a blogger and she posts names of students on her blog." This is false information, and I filed a Notice of Claim against Ms. Massena and her boss, Theresa Europe, in order to protect and preserve my right to sue them for making such a claim. 

Remember, if you want to ever sue the DOE or any individual who works for them, and you intend on filing in State Court, you must file a Notice of Claim against the City of New York by sending a claim letter to the NYC Comptroller's Office Bureau of Law and Adjustment, room 1225 1 Centre Street, NY NY 10007, and you do not need to hire an Attorney to write it for you. You should keep in mind that you must wait 30 days after you file the Notice of Claim to file a lawsuit, and you must file a Notice within 90 days of an event that you claim harmed you. I'm not an Attorney and I do not give legal advice, but I'm just letting you know what I did, when confronted with deliberate false information about me told to a third party. You can read my Notice of Claim below (I redacted the name of the teacher whose hearing I attended, and who won her 3020-a and was not terminated):


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- against -

                        MICHAEL BEST, THERESA EUROPE,  

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To:  Office of the City Comptroller                            Michael A. Cardozo, Esq.
        Bureau of Law and Adjustment                         New York City Law Department
        1 Centre Street, Room 1225                               100 Church Street
        New York, New York 10007                             New York, New York 10007

 PLEASE  TAKE  NOTICE  that the claimant hereby makes claim and demand against the individuals and groups named in the caption above for the malicious, deliberate, arbitrary, and capricious violation of due process rights, civil rights, and rights to be free from defamation and harassment against the Respondents named above.

1)      The name, post office address, and phone number of claimant is:
Ms. Betsy Combier

2)  Nature of Claim:

On Wednesday, November 2, 2011, I, the Claimant, appeared at a hearing as the advocate for a tenured teacher, namely        , at The Office of General Counsel located at 51 Chambers Street, 6th floor.  Claimant has been researching the laws, rules, and regulations that the New York City Department/Board of Education and New York State Department of Education are supposed to be following, and has attended 3020-a hearings since 2003 as an observer, a reporter/journalist, and as an advocate for teachers working with the United Federation of Teachers (2007-2010).

I arrived at around 9:30AM for a 10 o'clock start time for the teacher's hearing.  NYSUT Attorney Maria Elena Gonzalez Lichten greeted the three other public observers, and told us (I stood nearby) that the arbitrator would be looking at documents and we needed to wait upstairs on the seventh floor, where the hearing room for this case was located. We – I,          ,Ms. Maria Elena Gonzalez Lichten, and the three other women – got into the elevator, and took seats on the seventh floor outside of the hearing room. Maria Elena went in with the DOE Attorney Ms. Cheryl Smith Massena (Cheryl Smith) to the hearing room and they closed the door. Approximately 15 minutes later, Maria Elena came out to speak to all four of the public observers, as             asked for and was approved to have an open and public hearing.
I and the other three observers heard Maria Elena say that as there was a Chancellor’s Regulation that forbade any open hearing when a child testified, the Arbitrator, Stephen F. O’Beirne, Esq. of Clifton, NJ., was closing the hearing while the child testified.

Claimant knew of no such Chancellor’s Regulation. Claimant nicely asked Ms. Gonzalez Lichten to give her the exact Regulation number, so that she could look it up. Ms. Gonzalez Lichten immediately started screaming at Claimant, saying that under no circumstances should she speak with her, ever, and “everything [you] write is a lie, and false.”

Claimant asked what, exactly, was a lie and/or false?

Ms. Gonzalez Lichten told Claimant that “everything” she wrote was false, “everything,” and Claimant must never speak to her again. Ms. Gonzalez Lichten turned around and went to the hallway, then everyone went into the hearing room to start the hearing.

Approximately five minutes later we, (all four observers, the Respondent, the NYSUT Attorney, and DOE Attorney) sat in the hearing room as Arbitrator O’Beirne opened the record, saying that he had never been the arbitrator for an open and public hearing, and would Ms. Massena (Cheryl Smith) please begin with her opening statement. Ms. Smith, as I know her name to be, spit out in a derogatory fashion words to the effect of:
“Mr. Arbitrator, we have a blogger sitting here named Ms. Betsy Combier, and she has posted the names of children attending hearings on her blog, therefore we must close the hearing to all members of the public when a child testifies.”

The Respondents have a pattern and practice of insulting Claimant and defaming her in front of teachers, education administrators, and private attorneys hired by teachers to do 3020-a arbitration hearings at 51 Chambers Street, all for their personal gain.

Ms. Smith knowingly, recklessly, arbitrarily, and maliciously lied about Claimant’s actions and her blog in retaliation for Claimant posting the case of Steven Ostrin on her blog, which is NYC Rubber Room Reporter. In that case, Ms. Cheryl Smith sent an email to Theresa Europe about Mr. Ostrin’s case being closed in 2007 and then brought him and his charges to 3020-a in 2009, and Arbitrator Howard Edelman was so angry at Ms. Smith and Theresa Europe for committing fraud that he closed the hearing for several months. Claimant posted on her blog  the Ostrin case as well as a memo written by former DOE official Eric Nadelstern about the case being closed, showing that Ms. Smith and Ms. Theresa Europe did not tell Edelman the truth about the charges being valid and the case still open in 2009.

Therefore, Claimant was retaliated against by the Department of Education Respondents named in the caption above, and, as the 3020-a hearing procedures do not permit the general public to speak, Claimant could not defend herself, and her reputation and her career as a professional journalist and reporter who has never posted the name of a child who was a witness at 3020-a and under the age of 18 on her blog.

Claimant has sat through many hearings when a very young child was a witness over the past 8 years that Claimant has observed these hearings. Claimant was told that after the hearing of accused teacher L.S., who had a child witness, an open hearing attended by almost 15 people, and he was completely exonerated, that the arbitrator was “punished” by the Board of Education “Gotcha Squad” which is, in Claimant’s opinion, under the control and direction of Theresa Europe (for the Administrative Trials Unit) and Naeemah Johnson (for the Teacher Performance Unit), and the Board stopped arbitrators from allowing the general public observe a child’s lies. The “Gotcha Squad” includes all the Defendants listed in the caption of this claim.

Subsequent to Ms. Smith’s statement in the record, the transcript will be sent to the New York State Education Department “OSPRA” unit where it will be read by members of the public who request it under FOIL, as well as members of the State and City government. The Defendants deliberately, maliciously and recklessly placed Claimant’s name and the profession “blogger” in the record to retaliate against her for exercising her First Amendment Rights to freedom of speech, assembly, and liberty, in order to put her in a bad light and cause her intentional emotional distress for telling Arbitrator O'Beirne false information.

Claimant sustained significant damage from the sham “Court of the Star Chamber”-type behavior of Respondents, and claims a right to be free from the actions described herein of Respondents in the manner described herein.

3)  The time when, the place where, and the manner in which the claim arose:  See 2. preceding.
4)  The items of damage or injuries claimed are: damages to reputation; emotional distress; impairment of claimant’s ability to secure future employment; impairment of earning power. The items of damage or injuries claimed amount to five million dollars.

            The claim and demand is hereby presented for adjustment and payment.

PLEASE  TAKE  FURTHER  NOTICE  that by reason of the foregoing, in default of the City of New York and the listed respondents to pay the claimant her claim within the time limited for compliance with this demand by the applicable statutes, claimant intends to commence an action against the City of New York and the listed respondents to recover her damages with interest and costs.

Dated: November 9, 2011

By the way, neither FERPA nor HIPPA, the two laws which are cited by Ms. Massena as the basis for her asking for a closure of the hearing to public observers when children come to testify, is indeed supportive of closed hearings at 3020-a. more about this another time.

Once a Notice of Claim is filed, the Claimant will receive a claim number from the Comptroller's office and should keep this claim number in case a 50-H deposition is scheduled by the City of New York. I had my 50-H deposition for the claim above on January 31, 2012, at 160 Broadway, 14th Floor. The Attorney for the DOE told me that the memo on my blog from Eric Nadelstern was "confidential", and I made the DOE look bad when I posted it, so where did I get it? My testimony was the truth, that Steve Ostrin filed the memo when he filed his 7511 Appeal of the 3020-a hearing award, which was to suspend him without pay for 6 months. This is after there was no investigation, and a Grand Jury as well as Martin Scheinman at his Probable Cause hearing  found no evidence of wrong-doing and that there was no case. The New York City DOE hates anyone who makes them look "bad". Many teachers have been charged with that, and it looks like our current media super star Francesco Portelos may have that specification in his allegations when - or if - he ends up at a 3020-a.


 Francesco posted the article below and the pictures, to show what the DOE is doing to retaliate against him for being a blogger and speaking out. How infantile the DOE is, with the little red flag attached to the news article.


Enjoy the latest episode:


“Stay away from him….he’s a “Blogger”!

I never thought blogging was just a dirty thing. I actually never thought I would be a blogger. I was too busy to sit and collect thoughts for a post. Now with my Android WordPress App and 4G, I can pretty much shoot out a post like this while I wait for these slow elevators.

Since I have started my blog (which stems from web log btw),:
  • I had teachers and the principal try and come down on me “You know the kids are bringing up your site in class and reading your blog.” I responded “They are what?…Reading? Well that is good that they are reading.”
  • Other reassigned teachers have been told by their supervisors to stay away from me, because I blog everything. I would like to think of it as exercising my Freedom of Speech.
  • a NY Post reporter used pictures and quotes from my blog for her article on the return of the Rubber Room process.
  • CNN producer contacted me as well as other news media to discuss this ongoing saga
Today I walked in to clock in at 8201 Rockaway Blvd and found these posted up with red flags…