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Saturday, August 13, 2016

The 3020-a Arbitration Newswire: Gotcha Squad Attorney Ian Nikol

Other posts under the title The 3020-a Arbitration Newswire:

The 3020-a Arbitration Newswire: Winning and Losing Appeals and the Teacher-Principal Relationship

The 3020-a Arbitration Newswire: Digging Up The Garbage On the UFT/DOE Partnership of Harm For Charged DOE Employees

The 3020-a Arbitration Newswire: The Xerox Machine

When a teacher receives a packet with 3020-a charges in it, the charges - either of alleged misconduct or incompetency - and Notice of the Determination of Probable Cause are all  products of the legal department, either the Teacher Performance Unit (TPU- incompetency cases) or Administrative Trials Unit (ATU- misconduct cases). Both the TPU and ATU are subparts of the Office of Legal Services headed by the General Counsel, who is also the attorney who represents the Chancellor, Carmen Farina. The current General Counsel is Howard Friedman. The former General Counsel was
Former General Counsel Courtenaye Jackson-Chase
Courtenaye Jackson-Chase. The ATU, TPU, OEO, OSI, SCI and all the Attorneys, staff, and employees who work for these groups, are collectively called the Gotcha Squad. My advice: if you see something, say something, but NOT to any of these groups! They will charge you with something if you make a complaint to any of them (if you are a teacher, non-administrative staff/employee, or parent).
General Counsel Howard Friedman
Having studied and watched the Gotcha Squad scam and being a victim of their venom myself, I have the process of the DOE falsely charging someone, lying under oath, covering up fraud and corruption, ignoring legal and contractual rights, nailed - which gives me strategies to use to defend my clients at 3020-a.

Even Attorney Ian Nikol believes I know what I'm doing. He told the administrators at MS 226 (including Principal Rushell White) while he was there preparing for them to testify against one of my clients who had been wrongfully charged with 3020-a, that I knew all about the DOE and what has been going on. I know my stuff.

Thanks, Ian! He was not always so flattering, more about that later.

Naeemah Lamont, Ian Nikol, Rishonna Fleishman
Whether you are the Respondent, a witness, or an observer at the 3020-a arbitration of a teacher, if the NYC Department of Education was represented by Ian Nikol you can never forget how unprofessional Ian was, and how he bullied everyone in the room - including arbitrators - to push his agenda forward (termination of the charged employee). His last day with the Department was Thursday, May 19, 2016. He told us he was going to the Department of Correction. Good luck with him, I mean good luck to him, I mean good luck to you.

Ian Nikol (on the left)
I have watched Ian Nikol for many years, as well as his partner in crime, Dennis Da Costa, previously highlighted on this blog: Teacher Performance Unit Deputy Director Dennis Da Costa. Dennis is also no longer listed on the NYC DOE webpage.

Ian used to attend all his hearings with his sidekick, Harlyn Griffenberg-Greer, because Ian has to talk with someone during testimony. He cannot sit and listen for more than a minute or two. Interruptions and objections are his way to dominate the process so that the witness for the teacher loses his/her thought, and forgets what they were supposed to say. Ian does not write notes, he writes a word and draws boxes around the word....over....and....over.......

It is tiring watching Ian scribble his boxes, making the four lines bigger by drawing them over and over again, whispering to whomever is sitting next to him, laughing at secretly funny things, making faces, looking at the ceiling for some answer, etc. His antics are not amusing, and even more alarming is the lack of concern or at least the lack of interest on the part of the arbitrator to stop him.

Arbitrator Philip Maier did try to change Ian's behavior. At a recent 3020-a, while my closing arguments were read into the record by the attorney, Ian became bored. He took his cell phone out and held it up while he played games, looked at his email, I dont know what. He giggled several times. I wrote a tiny note to my client to see if she noticed what he was doing. I guess the Arbitrator saw what Ian was doing, and suddenly the arbitrator told the transcription recorder person to go off the record, and told Ian to stop looking at his cell phone, and to put it away. Ian did as told, but pouted and folded his arms, clearly angry at the reprimand. He looked like he was in shock.

After our closing was finished, we broke for lunch. Then, as we entered the hearing room for Ian's closing, I saw newbie DOE Attorney David Raskin enter the room with Ian. Ian told everyone that David would be sitting in. Ian never reads any papers, so he just started talking with his many notes in front of him, while ....yep, you guessed it!!!! Raskin took out his cell phone, and read his email, played games, whatever, until Ian was finished. It was a lowpoint in Ian's DOE career, but he got away with it. My question to Mr. Raskin would be, why would he play Ian's childish games? I don't get it.

But all of Ian's childish ways (which, by the way, never diverted me in any way, I simply wrote notes about what he did, then he whispered to the person next to him, "Betsy is writing notes about me") are trumped by Ian's malicious prosecution, his trampling any and all rights whether these rights are in the law, contract, regulations, or not. He doesn't care. He doesn't like witnesses for the defense, they simply get in his way. He hates charged employees.

The 3020-a of Yolanda Walker is a case in point, and in my opinion, at this hearing the true malicious nature of Ian Nikol was clearly visible.

Yolanda Walker hired me to do her 3020-a as her paralegal. She chose to go pro se, as she was a fearless and feisty person willing to stand up and say what needed to be said. She was also very ill when she was charged. She told me she would not tell the arbitrator for her case, Sara Miller Espinosa, how ill she was. I did not say anything because of course all communication I have with my clients are confidential until they tell me they want to expose someone, then I will.

Ian Nikol's first demand when Yolanda's hearing began was to remove me as Yolanda's advocate and he demanded that the arbitrator rule that I had to sit as far away from Yolanda as possible, against the wall, and never speak with her. Arbitrator Sara Miller Espinosa denied his request.

Ian's next move was to demand that the Arbitrator deny Yolanda's medical leave, scheduled for the month of December 2014 so that she could have surgery. He brought in a note from, he told everyone, the payroll secretary, saying that Yolanda had never applied to take a medical leave for surgery. I had determined that Ian would do something underhanded like that, so I told Yolanda to bring the letter from the real payroll secretary (Ian had not told the truth, his letter was from Principal Scanlon's secretary) acknowledging Yolanda's leave for the month of December.

But Yolanda was too ill to have surgery, so we started her 3020-a December 5, 2014. Ian could not care that Yolanda was very ill, he was as nasty as ever, hoping that I would dissolve into a pile of gibberish. Instead, I thrive on challenges such as this. Yolanda and I were an excellent team.

How do I know? Ian became an out of control mess, yelling at us, objecting to every word Yolanda said, and literally fighting us as if he was a professional boxer. I was saddened by Ian's behavior, because I knew how ill Yolanda was. She told me that I could not tell him but I did not think it would have made any difference.

Yolanda had been teaching for almost 30 years, but Scanlon charged her without doing a single observation. Instead, he sent in a teacher, Breina Lampert to observe her, and rate Yolanda for the 2012-2013 school year. Scalon testified:

5                                                                A. Ms. Lambert told me that there was,
6                                 you know, a history for instruction in the classroom
7                                 and that the students were learning -- and that their
8                                 grades, their Regents passing grades -- suffering by
9                                 it and that she felt that, you know, for the reasons I
10                            stated and the recommendations made that it was an
                   unsatisfactory lesson.

So Scanlon filed 3020-a charges against Yolanda. For no reason. This is one of the most stupifying facts that come out of 3020-a hearings....that the charges are without reason, irrational, and simply false.

Ms. Lampert was made an Assistant Principal the following school year, and ended up in the NY POST and other newspapers for cheating on tests.Ian didn't care that a teacher rated another teacher. He brought in Ms. Lampert to testify, and I assisted Yolanda in creating an objection for the record that Lampert's testimony was a violation of the contract. Ian finally demanded that her testimony be stricken from the record.

Also in December 2014 Ian Nikol lied about ever seeing the Performance Management document. He would not allow Daniel Scanlon or Grace Zwillenberg, former Principal of John Adams High School, testify to using that document to get rid of teachers. Ian had, previously, seen the very same document presented to Daniel Scanlon and Grace at another 3020-a hearing for another teacher at John Adams, (I was hired as the paralegal) and Scanlon called the papers titled "Performance Management" his "Bible". Grace Zwillenberg the former Principal, testified also that this document was her "Bible". I told Arbitrator Espinosa that Ian had not been truthful.

Ian stood up and started screaming, that's it!!! I've had it!!!!!! I will be right back!!!!! He stormed out of the hearing room, and appeared about 7 minutes later with his Supervisor,  Attorney Dennis Da Costa.

Dennis went on the record (I requested that a record be made) and testified that I had to shut my mouth in the hearing room, on or off the record, outside the hearing room, and anywhere on the floor and/or the building. Yolanda got very upset.

Courtenaye Jackson-Chase
At that time the General Counsel for the NYC DOE was Courtenaye Jackson-Chase, a person I very much respect and like, despite our different positions on 3020-a cases. She left the DOE in May. I met Courtenaye more than 8 years ago at the NYSSBA meeting at the Hilton Hotel, and I liked her immediately. I was working for the UFT at the time, so I had a chance to ask for meetings with her several times.

When Dennis Da Costa said that I had to shut my mouth anywhere in the DOE buildings, at all times, I knew that I needed to go to Courtenaye. Not because we were going to give in to Ian, but because I felt that Yolanda could not take much more of Ian's abusive behavior. I called Courtenaye, and she agreed to see me. The 3020-a hearings used to take place across the street from Tweed, Courtenaye's office, on Chambers Street.

I ran across the street, and told Courtenaye about Yolanda, her illness, Ian's actions and Dennis Da Costa's hysterical outburst, etc. I asked Courtenaye to ask Ian to settle the case, as Yolanda needed to retire, but Ian only gave her to  August 31 2015 to retire. Courtenaye told me, I will see what I can do.

I ran down the street, bought a slice of pizza, and ran back to the hearing.

When Arbitrator Espinoza started the hearing once again, Ian was as nice as could be. He told the Arbitrator that he believed that a settlement could be reached. Yolanda and I went into a room nearby with Ian, and he agreed to give Yolanda a retirement date of October 5, 2015. I wrote a heartfelt thank you to Courtenaye.

Yolanda was very happy. She died October 11, 2015.

I miss her.

Other negotiations I have done at 3020-a as the representative/paralegal for the Respondent:

Rochester, N.Y. (no lawyer): 3 cases where the Rochester School District filed charges against teachers and wanted termination, I successfully negotiated withdrawal of charges; a promise not to pursue another 3020-a in the future (which was already being investigated) ; retirement and withdrawal of charges.

Addison N.Y (no lawyer).: successfully negotiated terms of settlement whereby the charged teacher received a retirement date 1 1/2 years after the charges were withdrawn, the last year full salary stay at home (to get the full 30-year pension).

New York City: assisted private attorneys in about 10 cases to get charges withdrawn, and retirement packages requested by the teachers. I have 3 complete exonerations.

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