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Sunday, May 1, 2016

The 3020-a Arbitration Newswire: Digging Up The Garbage on the DOE Lawyers -Shareema Abel

Attorney Shareema Abel
The lawyers I have watched who prosecute 3020-a Respondents are a motley crew, ranging from "I am trying-my-best to terminate this employee with quiet professionalism" to "this Respondent is scum and I'm gonna prove it even if I have to scream and yell."

I believe that the NYC 3020-a Arbitrators and DOE Attorneys are in an impossible moral and ethical conflict, where they must overlook obvious violations of law and regulations, even the lies of their witnesses, to satisfy the DOE policy of terminating tenured teachers in order to stay on the panel or in their jobs. Is the $1400/day and/or the perks of being a DOE 3020-a Attorney worth the risks to reputation and future cases? The Arbitrators and Attorneys on the NYC panel must say yes.

Some of the DOE Attorneys who prosecute teachers and other employees at 3020-a really believe that the person charged is guilty of terrible crimes to children....or, they are excellent actors. Sometimes the venom and disrespect heard across the table is so outrageous that it seems to have a personal distaste behind it for the person who is charged. I agree that if a teacher has sex with a young child in a classroom closet, the distaste and disrespect may be valid. But for a charge of not having a lesson plan? C'mon, that is absurd. I have seen this anger and it is not easy to view, even after studying the Attorneys and arbitrators at 3020-a hearings for 13 years, as I have.

Are you an Attorney ready to defend the NYC DOE administrators as they wrongfully attack teachers and other staff? You must be willing to keep secret the failures of the charging agents (the Gotcha Squad, DOE "legal", principals, Assistant principals, whomever) to put two teachers in an ICT class; to give 'specials' (art-music-dance teachers) to special education children who have service providers listed on their IEPs; to provide state mandated SAVE or TIME OUT Rooms; to properly discipline and report rowdy and/or dangerous students who assault other students, teachers, staff. The list is long of the coverups you must do. But the pay is good. Below is an application:

Administrative Trials Unit Attorney
Tracking Code
Job Description
 (Those who previously applied need not re-apply)

Position Summary:  Under the direction of the Deputy Counsel of the Administrative Trials Unit, with wide latitude for independent action, the Administrative Trials Unit Attorney will serve as a legal representative of the Chancellor performing sophisticated legal work in disciplinary proceedings. Performs related work.

Reports to: Director of the Administrative Trials Unit

Direct Reports: N/A
Key Relationships:  Director of the Administrative Trials Unit, Superintendents, and Principals.


  • Handles legal issues and cases, including recommendations concerning the soundness of charges, preparing specification of charges, coordinating the gathering of evidence, and briefing witnesses.
  • Responsible for legal cases that are complex and high profile in nature.
  • Represents the Department of Education (DOE) in Education Law 3020-A proceedings and hearings pursuant to Section 75 of the Civil Service Law.
  • Provides legal counsel and training to Superintendents and Principals on disciplinary procedures.
  • Acts as a liaison to executives within the agency and to other City agencies.

Qualification Requirements:


Admission to the New York State Bar and three (3) years of progressively responsible United States legal experience subsequent to admission to any state bar.

NOTE: Selected candidates must remain members of the New York State Bar in good standing for the duration of their employment.


  • Minimum three (3) years litigation experience.
  • Ability to rapidly understand provisions of applicable laws and regulations.
  • Ability to write clearly and concisely.
  • Ability to conduct legal research efficiently.

 Salary: $85,000+

Applicants must submit a cover letter and resume to be considered for this position.

Resumes will be reviewed on an ongoing basis. We encourage applicants to apply as soon as possible.
NOTE: The filling of all positions is subject to budget availability and/or grant funding.

It is the policy of the Department of Education of the City of New York to provide educational and employment opportunities without regard to race, color, religion, creed, ethnicity, national origin, alienage, citizenship status, age, marital status, partnership status, disability, sexual orientation, gender (sex), military status, prior record of arrest or conviction (except as permitted by law), predisposing genetic characteristics, or status as a victim of domestic violence, sexual offenses and stalking, and to maintain an environment free of harassment on any of the above-noted grounds, including sexual harassment or retaliation.  Inquiries regarding compliance with this equal opportunity policy may be directed to: Office of Equal Opportunity, 65 Court Street, Room 1102, Brooklyn, New York 11201, or visit the OEO website at
Job Location
NEW YORK, New York, United States
Position Type

Each NYC Department of Education Attorney assigned to a 3020-a arbitration case is under the Office of General Counsel and must abide by the rules and the mandate of the Administrative Trials Unit ("ATU" - Laura Brantley, Director, and, rumor has it,  Karen Antoine, Deputy Director) or the Teacher Performance Unit ("TPU" - Naeemah Lamont, Director and Dennis Da Costa,

Deputy Director) to terminate the person charged, no matter what the charges are. They change the rules to fit their whim-of-the-day, as they can.

Gotcha Squad Attorney Ian Nikol (on the left)
And one of the denial of rights for all charged UFT members of the DOE in New York City can be seen in the fact that no charged, tenured teacher may assist in choosing his/her arbitrator, as mandated by the NYS Commissioner's Regulations and Education Law 3020-a(3)(a)(b). NYSUT and the DOE did away with that right, leaving the appointment of arbitrators to the attorneys in the Gotcha Squad TPU or ATU. This is one reason why anyone falsely accused and found guilty of any specification must file (within 10-days) an Appeal (Article 75). This is why I filed a Freedom of Information request to New York State for all the vouchers of the Arbitrators, to show that the TPU and ATU have to reach out to lawyers in Chicago (i.e. Doyle O'Connor, in my opinion the worst arbitrator on the NYC panel). NY State Ed Department (NYSED) pays for the daily rate in hearing days and study time, but the NY City DOE pays for the travel. The DOE maintains their control over the arbitrator this way.

If a Principal is charged with 3020-a, he/she may, with his/her CSA Attorney, choose an arbitrator. We did, in the cases where a Principal hired me and one of my attorneys. Outside of New York City when I and/or my services and an Attorney are hired to do 3020-a, we get a list of arbitrators and, with the school district lawyer on the case, mutually agree on a single arbitrator. Not in NYC. The arbitrator is assigned by Dennis Da Costa, Naeemah Lamont (TPU incompetency cases) or Laura Brantley (ATU misconduct cases). Thus if you have ever observed a 3020-a as a member of the public, been charged or have been a legal professional and/or witness at these arbitration hearings, you may have seen the arbitrator give deference to the DOE Attorney on the case. The arbitrator who wants to remain on the permanent panel does what Da Costa, Lamont, or Brantley want them to do, so that they are not fired.

Gotcha Squad Attorneys Naeemah Lamont, Ian Nikol, Rishona Fleishman
In NYC most, not all, of the arbitrators cannot be neutral. But cases can still be won on the defense. A strong defense, where all the school's violations of law and procedure are put on the table, can win the case. If the Respondent wants to Appeal - and I believe that all charged educators must Appeal - the Appeal is imbedded in the transcripts and the 60+-page closing argument.

I have seen this at work many times, and the "persuasion" techniques used by Da Costa are reprehensible. In one case, the Arbitrator found a science teacher guilty of such minor charges that she gave the teacher a small fine and wrote in her decision that the teacher must return to her position at the school she had been teaching in. The TPU told the arbitrator after the decision had been sent out to all parties that there had to be another hearing. The Arbitrator travelled from Maryland and we went, only to hear Dennis Da Costa scream at this arbitrator that she had to modify her decision, as no teacher found guilty of anything can return to the school at which she was charged. The arbitrator agreed to remove that part from her Award, the teacher was made an ATR, and the Arbitrator left, humbled and disgusted with the attack of Da Costa (my opinion).

Shareema Abel
This post is about the behavior of one very strange former DOE attorney/prosecutor, Attorney Shareema Abel. She was an Attorney assigned to the TPU when I observed her at several 3020-a proceedings, one of which I was hired to be the paralegal. More about her career is below.

In the case I worked on, Respondent teacher was a UFT delegate in addition to her position as a full time teacher who had never been disciplined in 3020-a before she received charges in 2013 for incompetency. The case was not ripe for arbitration, because when the hearing started, the Principal who had charged her, Angela Whitehurst of MS334, had resigned, under charges that  she - Principal Whitehurst - had altered records. When we received the discovery documents, and the Appeal of the Respondent's U-rating to the Office of Appeals and Reviews (OAR), we - I and the Attorney - noticed that almost all the documents were not signed, by anyone.

My client said that she had not been able to see her file for almost 4 years, and had not been given a copy of the observations nor had she been asked to sign all but one. Principal Whitehurst, in her testimony, said that she destroyed all files and papers in her office when she was found guilty of wrongdoing, resigned, and became Principal of National Heritage Academies, a Charter School.

We submitted a Motion To Remove Unsigned Documents From The Record based upon the UFT Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) Article 21:


A. (1) "No material derogatory to a teacher's conduct, service, character or personality shall be placed in the [teacher] files unless the teacher has had an opportunity to read the material. The teacher shall acknowledge that he/she has read such material by affixing his/her signature on the actual copy to be filed, with the understanding that such signature merely signifies that he/she has read the material to be filed and does not necessarily indicate agreement with its content."
Almost immediately after we gave the Arbitrator, Richard Williams, and Ms. Abel a copy of the Motion, Ms. Abel started acting in a strange way. Ms. Abel crumpled her copy of the Motion into as tiny a ball as she could make, and sat on it. Then a few minutes later she stuck her tongue out at me, and kept it out for as long as she could. About half an hour later Ms. Abel I guess saw me looking at her and she started saying "oh, I'm so beautiful, I'm so gorgeous...." while she wiped her forehead, her cheeks, her chin, over and over, as if to wipe something off of her face that was dirty or something. We saw her wiping her face at the same time I did, and asked me what she was doing. We never figured this out.

When Ms. Abel started her cross-examination of my client she stood up, walked around the table, and stood right next to my client so that my client had to look up from her seat while answering the questions. The lawyer I was working with asked the Arbitrator if he would tell Ms. Abel to sit down, and he did, but Ms. Abel would not move. So, he stood between Ms. Abel and the client. The arbitrator told everyone that he would not allow any disruptive behavior in his hearing, so he asked everyone to sit down.

We won the case:

Decision of Arbitrator Williams:

 "The school administrations lack of compliance with the UFT MOA provisions on "due process" 
and ''teacher files" in this matter is simply astonishing and serves as credibility "dark cloud" over the entire proceeding against this Respondent....When a teacher is denied the right to view their own personnel file, they are essentially denied notice and the opportunity to be heard; when documents appear from an employer that set forth performance deficiencies in writing (electronic or otherwise) but contrary to express language in the MOA, no signature appears from a teacher acknowledging the document was shown to them, that teacher was denied notice and the opportunity to be heard; when an administrator testifies they spoke with a teacher concerning performance deficiencies that were noted during an observation but the teacher denies that either observations or discussions took place, and neither the administrations' written notations of those observations nor any other corroborative evidence of the observations or discussion is produced, and where there is no written acknowledgement of receipt, the conclusion that the teacher was denied proper notice and the opportunity to be heard is the more plausible conclusion...It is also true however, that in a disciplinary context, the failure to provide a teacher with the protective rights to which they are entitled pursuant to a collective bargaining agreement, will negatively affect any disciplinary action brought in contravention of those rights. As stated earlier, the failures related to the availability and maintenance of teacher files and the failures related to "lesson specific" pre-observation meetings in the context of Formal Observations, negatively affect the 'just cause" of certain specifications within this disciplinary action."

Within a week or two, Shareema Abel was gone from the NYC TPU/ATU Offices, and moved to Governor Cuomo's Office as special counsel to the Commissioner for Ethics, Risk and Compliance for Homes and Community Renewal. In my opinion, Shareema Abel should not be in that office. Not from what I saw at 49-51 Chambers Street, 6th Floor.

Betsy Combier
Editor, NYC Rubber Room Reporter
Editor, New York Court Corruption
Editor, National Public Voice
Editor, NY Public Voice

Shareema Abel
Shareema Abel (formerly Gadson-Shaw) is a 1996 Harpur College graduate. She received her JD from Hofstra University School of Law in 1999, where she was a member of the Labor and Employment Law Journal and the Trial Team. Shareema was appointed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo as special counsel to the Commissioner for Ethics, Risk and Compliance for Homes and Community Renewal. She served as litigation attorney in the Teacher Performance Unit of the New York City Department of Education, where she was lead counsel on disciplinary hearings of tenured pedagogues. Formerly, she was an Assistant District Attorney for the Bronx District Attorney's Office. During her ten years at the District Attorney's Office she served as lead trial counsel on violent felony cases including homicide, robbery, burglary, and serious physical injury assault. Shareema also served as an Adjunct Professor at Hofstra University School of Law in the field of trial advocacy. She has been an instructor for the National Institute of Trial Techniques since 2004 and currently teaches the Building Trial Skills and Deposition Skills programs in Berkeley, San Diego and San Francisco, California.
Shareema Abel has been appointed Special Counsel to the Commissioner for Ethics, Risk and Compliance for Homes and Community Renewal. She currently serves as Litigation Attorney in the Teacher Performance Unit of the New York City Department of Education, where she was lead counsel on disciplinary hearings of tenured pedagogues. She previously served as an Assistant District Attorney in Gangs/Major Case/Homicide Bureau of the Bronx County District Attorney’s Office. Ms. Abel has a J.D. from Hofstra University School of Law and a B.A. from Binghamton University. 

"Special Counsel for Ethics, Risk and Compliance
New York State
 – Present (1 year)New York City
As a gubernatorial appointee, I operate from within NYS Homes and Community Renewal to identify risk, areas of improvement and mitigation for identified risks. Review Agency initiatives and programs to identify risks and opportunities, ensure high ethical standards, track issues that affect significant agency operations and recommend risk-mitigation measures. Identify and prioritize training needs for Agency personnel. Address risk centered personnel issues with unionized employees. Work collaboratively with the agency's Commissioner, General Counsel, Internal Control Officer, Internal Audit Officer, Executive Level Management and others who have risk responsibilities within the agency to effectuate implementation of risk mitigation measures. Work as a team with Special Counsels in other State agencies, and liaise to ensure development and standardization of best practices across NYS agencies. Develop a State-wide system to manage identified risk and ensure compliance, develop and streamline risk-reduction measures across agencies, with particular focus on reducing fraud and abuse." 

    From me to the Governor:

Governor Cuomo: you must be kidding.