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Friday, December 27, 2013

Susan Holtzman, Counsel To The District 75 Superintendent, and SCI Investigators, are Cited For Denying Due Process to a Paraprofessional

Every once in a while - like once a year or so - the UFT wins a case, to prove that they "care" about contract violations. The UFT website posted the matter below on Dec. 19, 2013, but the para was terminated in 2010. So I guess they dug this case up after breaking the dusty lock on the vault in the basement of 52 Broadway. Jack Tillem has not been an Arbitrator on the 3020-a panel for several years, but maybe he is still doing grievances. Haven't seen him at 49-51 Chambers Street (and I'm there a lot).

Anyway, congrats to Jeff Huart for winning this grievance, and thanks to Arbitrator Jack Tillem and UFT Grievance Department Director Ellen Gallin Procida for citing SCI and former DOE FOIL Records Access Officer and now Counsel to District 75 Susan Holtzman for violating the due process rights of a UFT member. Happens too often, this denial of due process...stay tuned for the story of a sexual assault by an SCI Investigator in an elementary school in Brooklyn.

Betsy Combier

Due process works for Bronx para

Returns to classroom as rationale for termination ruled ‘fatally flawed’

A District 75 paraprofessional in the Bronx who was terminated by the Department of Education in October 2010 is back in the classroom with full back pay and benefits after an arbitrator ruled that the DOE investigation resulting in her firing was “fatally flawed” and that the discharge was not based on “good and sufficient reason after due consideration.”
Jeff Huart
In filing the grievance, the UFT contended that the DOE violated the paraprofessional’s due-process rights as set out in the collective-bargaining agreement. UFT Special Representative for District 75 Jeff Huart declared the decision a “huge victory that clearly states that the contract is paramount in establishing guidelines that ensure our paras receive their due-process rights.”
The paraprofessional, who asked not to be named, had a five-year, unblemished record when she received the termination notice stating that “you lied to investigators” and notifying her that she had been put on the DOE ineligible list and blocked from any future employment in the city school system.
The determination that she lied was based solely on claims by an investigator with the Office of the Special Commissioner of Investigation of the New York City School District. That investigator concluded the paraprofessional had lied after questioning her on two occasions during his investigation of an unrelated case. Arbitrator Jack Tillem charged that the resulting termination was tantamount to the investigator “morphing into judge, jury and executioner.”
In her testimony at the arbitration hearing, Susan Holtzman, the counsel to the District 75 superintendent, acknowledged that she had accepted the special commissioner’s report accusing the paraprofessional of lying without further investigation and had drafted the letter of termination based solely on that report.
In his decision, the arbitrator noted that it was never made clear what the paraprofessional had lied about, nor was she allowed to confront the person who accused her of lying.
“The entire matter,” he wrote, “is marinated in hearsay.”
Citing the seriousness of Holtzman’s action, which deprived the paraprofessional of her livelihood, Tillem asked, “The question cannot help but nag: Wasn’t the grievant worth a separate investigation culminating in a separate report?”
UFT Grievance Department Director Ellen Gallin Procida characterized the termination as “an egregious lack of due process — a case of guilt by association designed to prove someone else guilty.”
She said the arbitrator’s reversal of the termination “upholds the contract’s guarantee of a paraprofessional’s right to an open-minded and fair investigation under the due-consideration safeguard.”