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Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Lest We Forget: NYC Education Corruption and the Case of James T. Stein and Jerry Olshaker

Cover-Up Charged in School Official's Sex-Abuse Case

Published: October 11, 1991

In what investigators described as a cover-up by an "old boys' network," two current and two former officials of the New York City Board of Education were accused yesterday of conducting a cursory investigation of a colleague's conviction for sexually abusing a child and then letting him keep his job.

The two current officials are James T. Stein, who was dismissed by Schools Chancellor Joseph A. Fernandez as the $68,394-a-year head of the office that hears appeals by teachers disciplined for misconduct, and Howard S. Tames, the $95,000-a-year head of the office that tests and licenses teachers. Mr. Tames, who received a "severe reprimand" from Mr. Fernandez, heads the office that replaced the Board of Examiners last year.
Mr. Fernandez also dismissed Jerry Olshaker, a $71,000-a-year administrator of food supply who pleaded guilty in 1987 to sexually abusing a neighbor's daughter in Matawan, N.J.
A report by Edward Stancik, the Deputy Commissioner of Investigation for the city's schools, said Mr. Stein appointed a three-person panel that was made up entirely of associates of Mr. Olshaker to review the arrest. The report said the panel, loath to dismiss a well-regarded colleague, deliberately avoided seeking out the facts behind the sex charges. Mr. Stancik said the officials seemed "visibly shaken" when they later learned those details during the course of his investigation. 'One Big Happy Family'.
"They didn't want to know the truth," Mr. Stancik said, describing the officials as an "old boys' network." "The department of personnel acted like one big happy family. When someone got into trouble the family took care of it."
The record on the entire episode was secreted for four years in the top drawer of Mr. Stein's desk instead of being placed in the appropriate board file, the report said.
Mr. Stancik's office, part of the city's Department of Investigation, was created last year to be independent of the board after disclosures that the board's own investigatory arm was doing a poor job of policing corruption.
In January 1987, the 56-year-old Mr. Olshaker, then the administrator of support services in the Personnel Division, was charged with repeated acts of sexual abuse of his daughter's friend from the time the friend was 8 until she was 14. Most of the acts described in the report involved his placing of the girl's hand on his genitals.

Mr. Olshaker, a board employee since 1962, confided the arrest four months later to his immediate supervisor, Geri Morganteen, and said he intended to plead not guilty. The report said Ms. Morganteen, who resigned from the board more than a year ago, notified Mr. Stein. Mr. Stein, 56, and Edward Aquilone, executive director of the personnel division, decided, in accordance with board regulations, to convene a Personnel Review Panel to evaluate the case and recommend action. The panel was made up of Mr. Stein, Ms. Morganteen and Mr. Tames, all friends of Mr. Olshaker.

The panel, the report said, may have conducted no inquiry and, indeed, Mr. Stein, its leader, "chose not to ask" the specifics of the arrest. After seeing the Monmouth County indictment, which included no description of the acts of abuse, he had Mr. Tames and Ms. Morganteen sign a document recommending Mr. Olshaker's retention.

The report said the panel members and Mr. Aquilone, who has since retired, defended the handling of the case. The report said that Mr. Stein may also have falsified a document.
The board's regulations require a representative of the Chancellor to be part of the panel. So Mr. Stein, the report said, apparently wrote an identification next to Mr. Tames's signature that indicated he worked for the Office of School Safety, which he did not.

On June 9, 1987, Mr. Olshaker pleaded guilty and he was sentenced to three months' probation on the condition that he undergo psychotherapy. A second review panel, without any details of the plea, again recommended Mr. Olshaker's retention.

Mr. Fernandez defended his decision to let Mr. Tames remain by arguing that Mr. Tames merely went along with a process that was engineered by Mr. Stein with little knowledge of the charges at issue.