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New Rochelle Board of Education: Criminal Enterprise Masquerading as an Educational Institution - Part XXI

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New Rochelle Board of Education: Criminal Enterprise Masquerading as an Educational Institution - Part XXI

June 09, 2017 - 15:43
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OK Folks. This is one of those long ones. It took me the better part of a week to write this including pulling up all the links to the articles and scanning and uploading documents. There is a lot packed in here. If you want to know more about any particular topic there should be a link to a supporting article or series of articles or links to documents, typically obtained under a Freedom of Information request.

I consider this something of a Mangum Opus as it contains a great deal of information that I have withheld from publication both at the request of the Justice Department and for various other reasons which I hope is made clear in the article.

This article began as a reply to the various deceptive, false and misleading statements contained in the statement Schools Superintendent Dr. Brian Osborne issued after the arrest of John Gallagher on federal corruption charges, the result of many years of reporting on my part, and cooperation with the federal government to expose corruption in New Rochelle. Along the way I had the chance to talk about corruption with many federal agents including, "the man" himself Preet Bharara at a fundraiser at Beckwith Pointe.

So here goes...

On May 23, 2017, the City School District of New Rochelle issued its’ Statement Regarding Arrest and Indictment of Former Aramark Employee.

The statement, approved and released by Schools Superintendent Dr. Brian Osborne, seeks to portray John Gallagher, indicted on federal corruption charges, as a person only tangentially related to the school district about whom they knew little, but also that they were proactive in removing Gallagher from his role within the District, that they did so for cause and that the District cooperated with the federal prosectors in the case and is committed to exposing and prosecuting corruption within the school district.

None of this is true.

I know this is not true because I am the person who drove what became a federal corruption investigation. Since 2008, I have been reporting on malfeasance of all sorts in the City School District of New Rochelle. I have had various allies over the years including some school board members, Interim Superintendent Dr. Jeffrey Korostoff and Assistant Superintendent for Business & Administration Jeff White. I attempted for several years to engage the school board in terminating the Aramark contract. I attempted for years to engage the Westchester County District Attorney’s Office. It was only when Richard St. Paul, my attorney, offered to make an introduction to an Assistant United States Attorney that the road towards real accountability began.

The first thing to understand about the New Rochelle Board of Education is that the administration and board are governed by one overriding principle, repeated to them like a mantra by their longstanding outside counsel, Jeffrey Kehl: protect the image of the school district. When maintaining a positive public image at all costs becomes the guiding principle, anything is possible including covering up the rape of children by a school administrator to theft of federal grant money to rampant corruption in facilities management. All of these things and more, are covered up under the guise of protecting the “greater good”.

There is no one else who spent the better part of a decade prodding school officials and reporting on corruption in the New Rochelle schools. But for those efforts, John Gallagher would still be working in New Rochelle and Aramark would still have the District facilities contract.

This is not to say I did it alone.

For many years, I have had the support of many current and former school district employees who were sickened by the corruption that surrounded them every day. If they were willing I would identify them publicly but they know the old adage in the New Rochelle school system, “if you point out a problem, you’re the problem”.  I will spare them the unwanted attention at their request. The entire community owes them a debt of gratitude as do I.

The culture of the New Rochelle school system is one of retribution, punishment, banishment, harassment and termination for upsetting the applecart. I have had the support of sources with deep knowledge of how the outside contractors like Mauro Zonzini and George Wood and Wager Contracting and T&G Electric and F&L Flooring and J & J Backflow and Globe Fencing and Rossi Fencing and so many others conspired (allegedly, in some cases) with school officials to defraud the District, to steal taxpayer money at the local, state and federal level. At various times, I had some support of some board members but at this point I have no support from any of the current board members.

Most importantly, I had the support of Dr. Jeffrey Korostoff. At the critical moment, just as the DOJ investigation was getting underway, there was, for one brief, shining moment the District had a man leading the district who was honest. Korostoff cared more about protecting the children, staff, parents and taxpayers from the predations of people like Quinn, Gallagher, Kehl, Organisciak, Zonzini, Wood and others than trying to make himself and the district look good.

For many years I lobbied school board members, supposedly elected to represent the interests of the community, but, in the end, lackeys and apologists for a corrupt system led by corrupt administrators. I tried running for school board myself and lost, twice. I spoke at board meetings for years. I met privately with board members. In the year following my school board election loss in 2011 I spent the next year meeting every Sunday night with financially-savvy residents and union officials to shine a light on financial fraud in the District. I came up with the idea of a Citizens Advisory Committee on the Budget to act as a counterweight to the fraudulent budgeting and accounting by Assistant Superintendent for Business & Administration John Quinn. Our little Sunday night group poured our ideas into the CAC report published in 2012. That work was seconded by a second CAC report in 2013. Despite widespread praise, even by board members, these reports were shelved by the board which had created the committee.

See New Rochelle Board of Education Citizen Advisory Committee on the Budget - Complete Set of Documents and Video + New Rochelle Board of Education Citizen Budget Committee Recommends Millions in Cost Savings Measures and Presentation Improvements + Community Advisory Committee Report for the 2013-2014 Budget

I could provide more detail - and if challenged on this point I will — but suffice to say that any positive change the occurred in getting rid of John Quinn, Aramark, John Gallagher and his team came about through my efforts, with the support of the people referenced above.

Because I was directly involved in all of it, I know that the statement put out by the District after Gallagher’s indictment is a fraud; a typical response by New Rochelle school officials to the exposure of corruption — lie about it, minimize it and hope the attention will fade.

In reading the District’s statement, there are a few things to remember:

John Gallagher worked in a senior management position in the District, carried a District job title, and acted on behalf of the District for just under two decades. For years, administration officials and the District’s outside counsel protected both the Aramark relationship, generally, and John Gallagher, in particular.

When the school board, reacting to pressure I brought, directed Schools Superintendent Richard Organisciak to terminate the Aramark contract, Organisciak ignored the board. The board did nothing about Organisciak’s defiance. In 2013, Organisciak went further, extending the contract with the assurance that the contract would be put out for bid “next year”.

When the contract was finally put out for competitive bid, for the first time in decades the Request for Proposal was written by Assistant Superintendent for Business & Administration John Quinn and Jeffrey Kehl in such a way that it amounted to what can only be described as a multimillion dollar rigged bid designed to preclude any other company from submitting a bid. The desired outcome was achieved. Only Aramark submitted a bid. 

Even that was not enough for Organisciak and Quinn and Kehl.

In June 2013, the school board questioned Quinn at a public meeting. Board members wanted to know whether the completed contract included certain conditions that they (at my “request”) had insisted upon, first and foremost that the new contract would have an annual “opt-in” clause not an “opt-out” clause so that the administration would have to affirmatively renew the contract each year not allow it to renew by default as had been the case since 1986. In a move without precedent, John Quinn told the board that he did not have a copy of the contract with him but would go to his office and get the contract and read from it to the board.  When he returned, he held up documents purporting to be the new contract and proceded to dissemble on point after point. It was only months later, after I filed a Freedom of Information request, that the truth came out: there was no Aramark contract. Quinn had used pieces of paper as a prop to deceive the board and the public.

There are many other examples of deceit involving Gallagher, Quinn, Organisciak and Kehl. Perhaps the most noteworthy is when Quinn, Organisciak and Kehl attempted to push through a board resolution on an expedited basis that would pay Gallagher and other Aramark employees for working overtime one weekend. The entire resolution was a fraud, no Aramark employees had worked overtime that weekend. The Aramark contract specifically prohibited the District from paying Aramark employees directly.

The resolution was a deceitful attempt to put Gallagher and members of this team on the District payroll prior to the cut off date of a new and less lucrative Tier in the New York State pension system. This was done in anticipation of the possibility that the Aramark contract was ever terminated; Quinn, Organisciak and Kehl had a contingency plan to hire Gallagher as a direct employee and they wanted to make him eligible for the better pension plan in the event that happened. I fed information about this scheme to school board member Jeffrey Hastie and instructed him to ask a few key questions. He did and the fraud soon unraveled.

Now to the statement of May 23, 2017.

Johnny, I Hardly Knew Ye!

To understand the attempt at deception by Dr. Osborne, look at the statement issued by the District and contrast it with the statement issued by the Office of the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York:

CSDNR STATEMENT ON GALLAGHER: “John Gallagher was an employee of Aramark Management Services Limited Partnership, which for many years starting in the mid-1980’s held contracts to provide the School District with facilities management services.”

DOJ STATEMENT ON GALLAGHER: “[John Gallagher] was the School District’s Director of Environmental Services, overseeing the School District’s buildings and grounds. To fill this position, the School District contracted with a company that provided, among other things, management services. Gallagher, as an employee of [Aramark], was thereby made the School District’s Director of Environmental Services, and worked full-time in the School District, as its agent, with authority to act on its behalf. Gallagher, as Director of Environmental Services, had influence over which contractors were awarded work by the School District, and over whether, when, and how contractors were assigned work and paid for work.”

Quite a difference!

Compulsion Ain’t Cooperation

Further deception is next evident when Dr. Osborne asserts without foundation that the school district “cooperated” with the Department of Justice. As will be made clear, the Justice Department decides when to credit a corporate entity for cooperation not the other way around.

CSDNR STATEMENT ON CSDNR COOPERATION WITH DOJ: “The School District has been cooperating with the United States Attorney’s Office in its investigation for approximately the last eighteen months, and has made voluminous records available to assist the prosecutors with their work.  We will continue to cooperate and assist with the Government’s investigation and prosecution.”

DOJ STATEMENT ON CSDNR COOPERATION WITH DOJ: None.

The District was served a Grand Jury subpoena under which they were ordered to turn over records.

To understand the deception, consider the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure. Under Title IV Rule 17 “The court (other than a magistrate judge) may hold in contempt a witness who, without adequate excuse, disobeys a subpoena issued by a federal court in that district. A magistrate judge may hold in contempt a witness who, without adequate excuse, disobeys a subpoena issued by that magistrate judge as provided in 28 U.S.C. §636(e).”

The Grand Jury Subpoena of December 18, 2015 states:

WE COMMAND YOU that all and singular business and excuses being laid aside, you appear and attend before the GRAND JURY of the people of the United States for the Southern District of New York…to testify and give evidence in regard to an alleged violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1346 and not to depart the Grand Jury without leave thereof, or of the United States Attorney, and that you bring with you and produce at the above time and place the following (records).

The Grand Jury Subpoena continues:

Failure to attend and produce any items hereby demanded will constitute contempt of court and will subject you to civil sanctions and criminal penalties, in addition to other penalties of the Law.

In other words, the District had two options: turn over the records or face prison time and fines.

That is NOT cooperation that is compulsion.

The U.S. Attorney General’s office has a mandatory written policy for federal prosecutors on when to credit a corporate entity for “cooperation”. For 20 years, going back to the Clinton administration, the U.S. Attorney General “maintained and publicized policies intended to foster corporate compliance efforts and cooperation with government investigations”. Those policies evolved from informal to formal; in 2015, Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates issued a policy memorandum to Department of Justice attorneys, directing them to “focus enforcement efforts on holding individuals accountable for corporate malfeasance”. She created a new policy making “cooperation credit conditional on the disclosure of all relevant facts as to any individuals involved in the misconduct”.

To receive credit for cooperation, the District was required to “identify all individuals involved in potential wrongdoing and provide the Department with all relevant facts relating to the misconduct.” The District did not receive cooperation credit from the DOJ because they did not identity “all individuals” or provide the DOJ with “all relevant facts”.

No Grounds Needed

Osborne’s characterization of how Gallagher’s removal came about is not only deceitful but dumb.

CSDNR STATEMENT ON REMOVAL OF JOHN GALLAGHER: “In July of 2014, the School District advised Aramark that it wished to replace Mr. Gallagher and the rest of the on-site Aramark team for "unsatisfactory management and supervision".

DOJ STATEMENT ON REMOVAL OF JOHN GALLAGHER: N/A

The DOJ did not comment on Gallagher’s removal in 2014 because it does not pertain to their case. The District did comment on it because they are trying to make it appear as if they were proactive in dealing with a corrupt consultant — without noting that the corrupt consultant worked for the District in a senior management position for almost two decades and that their own investigators had reported the corruption to them three years earlier (and they did nothing about it).

I am intimately familiar with the plan to remove Gallagher because it was my plan.

First, to understand the context of Gallagher’s removal, readers need to recall that Organisciak had departed in a huff in the fall of 2013 after he was informed his contract would not be renewed. He was sick at the time (he has since died) but fully intended to continue as Superintendent. Told by the board that he would not continue beyond the end of his current contract he informed the board he would use up all his available sick days, personal days and vacation days so as to depart on October 2013 but remain on the payroll until June 2014.

It was about this time that I first met with prosecutors and investigators in both the Westchester County District Attorney’s Office and the United States Department of Justice.  I had been attempting to interest the DA for over a year in corruption in the District without success. Through the intercession of Richard St. Paul, I was offered a meeting with the DOJ on October 8, 2013. I used that offer as impetus to push for a higher level meeting with the DA. Janet DeFiore’s office arranged a meeting for me with the head of the criminal division at the DA. That meeting ended badly when the DA’s office adopted the incredible position that John Gallagher was “the victim” not the perpetrator of corruption in the District. I left the meeting after a few choice words and walked around the corner to the DOJ’s office to meet St. Paul. What was billed to me as a 20 minute introductory meeting with one person meeting turned into about 5 hours with eight persons including various divisions of the DOJ (Criminal, White Collar Crime, etc.), as well as the FBI, IRS and U.S. Postal Service Inspectors. I provided them tremendous detail on a scope of corruption that included, but expanded well beyond, New Rochelle to include the City School District of New Rochelle, the City of New Rochelle, the New Rochelle Police Department, the New Rochelle Municipal Housing Authority (including the Heritage Homes project), the Mount Vernon School District, the City of Mount Vernon, Scarsdale, Cortlandt and into Pennsylvania. I had further meetings and communications with the DOJ over the next two years but they did not immediately share with me whether they were pursuing the case, how or their timeline. They told me that I was a potential witness in whatever cases they might bring and they did want me to say or do anything that might interfere with with that. I was asked not to publish anything about the matter not realizing this would mean keeping my mouth shut for three and half years. Despite the long wait, I did hold off on publishing anything abut the DOJ case until they had gotten a conviction on Mauro Zonzini and arrested John Gallagher.

Also in the fall of 2013, Dr. Jeffrey Korostoff was named Interim Superintendent. Soon after his appointment, he and I met. He asked me what I would like to see him do during his brief tenure as Interim Superintendent. I requested three things: (1) end the practice of Organisciak-Quinn-Kehl illegally denying my Freedom of Information requests; (2) hire an outside consultant to evaluate five of my corruption articles on construction invoices that should never have been paid; (3) call Brian Conway of the Westchester County District Attorney’s Office Public Integrity Bureau and tell him that the District has a corruption problem and wants to cooperate with an investigation by the DA.

In February 2014, Korostoff reversed the District’s FOIL policy. I promptly filed two "test" FOIL requests, one for the new Aramark contact and one for records pertaining to David Lacher’s obtaining his personal medical insurance through the District. Both proved to be grand slams. There was no Aramark contract (Quinn lied). Lacher was 8 months in arrears on paying for his insurance and owed $13,5000 which, up to that point, he had refused to pay (Lacher misappropriated, with Quinn's help).

The Aramark contract was not finalized until 2015 when Osborne was Superintedent. He signed the contract.

Korostoff called ADA Brian Conway in the Spring of 2014. As I had predicted to Korostoff before he called, Conway, being lazy, told Korostoff that the DA’s Office would only look into the corruption if the District hired a Private Investigator to produce three investigative files. Conway said he would review the three files and decide whether to pursue an investigation. To accomplish this, Korostoff hired Vigilant Resources International to prepare the three files for referral to the DA’s Office.

VRI is a private investigations and security firm headed by former New York City Police Commissioner Howard Safir, the same firm hired by the District to do a security audit in 2013, shortly after the Sandy Hook shootings.

Also in the Spring of 2014, Korostoff hired Michael Orifici to review six (not five) of my articles on construction corruption. Orifici concluded (as I had) that none of the invoices should have been paid, that the District had been defrauded on invoices worth more than $300,000. One of the companies, Wager Contracting, immediately offered to return $50,000. Orifici was paid a fee for recouping $50,000 from Wager. I received nothing.

In April 2014, the Board learned a few things. The board learned that Quinn had lied to them about fire safety at New Rochelle High School (the alarm system did not work), that there was no new Aramark contact and more.

It was over this period that I first learned, indirectly, that the DOJ was proceeding. I had identified sources of mine that had indicated to me that they would be willing to talk to the DOJ. I heard from them that they were being called in to talk to the DOJ. Given this, I asked Korostoff to switch gears and give the PI files to the DOJ as they appeared to have an active case going, they were less likely to be as politically co-opted as the DA’s office and they had far greater resources than the DA.

After the Fourth of July weekend, Dr. Osborne began working in New Rochelle. He asked Korostoff to continue to manage both the corruption investigation and emergency construction repairs underway at several schools, primarily Columbus School and Webster School.

In the Summer of 2014, I met for several hours with Korostoff and two VRI investigators in the Carew Room at City Hall. I gave them a rundown of school corruption nearly identical to what I had presented to the DOJ about 9 months earlier.

They Knew All Along

It is important to note that, as of the Summer of 2014, the City School District of New Rochelle knew their was an active investigation of the District underway at the Justice Department and they had the same information I had provided to the Justice Department including the information contained on an elaborate poster board I had created to keep all the corruption connections organized in my mind as I worked to connect the dots. The DOJ took this poster board in a subsequent meeting at their offices in White Plains but I retained a photograph of it. The DOJ promised I would get it back, eventually (they still have it).

In October 2014, the VRI Investigators made a presentation to Osborne, Korostoff and others in City Hall. There were not 3 files but over 20 files.

In December 2014, Kehl and Osborne addressed the board on the VRI investigation. The board was not allowed to hear directly from the VRI investigators. Kehl and Osborne recommended that no disciplinary action be taken against any of the persons involved and that no referral be made to law enforcement. The reason given was threefold: (1) the District did not have enough in the files to prosecute a case, as if that was the purpose of the VRI investigation or that school districts are prosecutors; (2) a series of arrests would look bad for the District; and (3) the arrests would validate reporting of Talk of the Sound.  The board agreed.

Korostoff left the employment of the District about two weeks later.

Again, it is important to note that the entire purpose of the VRI investigation had been to turn over the files to law enforcement for evaluation, that soon after VRI began its investigation Korostoff was made aware of the DOJ investigation and agreed to turn the material over to the DOJ. The DOJ knew this because I told them.

The District received a federal subpoena in December 2015, a full year later.

Something in the Air

Other things in the air at that time were (1) Comptroller Stress Test report which gave New Rochelle one of the lowest marks in New York State — and which was suddenly “fixed” when Quinn claimed there had been an “error” in the District’s financial report, an “error” which was never put into writing or the subject of an amendment to the District’s annual financial statement filed with the New York State Education Department; (2) DOJ case against the District in the matter of civil rights violations of two students not evacuated during a fire/carbon monoxide incident at New Rochelle High School — the District lost the case and signed a consent decrees which it promptly began to violate; (3) Mike Smith, the District’s architect of record, warned the District about major, longstanding fire safety violations at New Rochelle High School that rendered the school unsafe — it appears this information was never provided to the DOJ investigation in their civil rights investigation; (4) Mike Smith wrote a letter warning Osborne about unsafe conditions with the roof/ceiling at Webster School due to water damage in the exact area where the ceiling would collapse a year later; (5) Brian Osborne ignored the pleas of Michael Orifici and Jeff Korostoff to bond to get money to fix Webster School because he did not want to risk losing a bond vote in his first year as it would look bad on his resume.

This should suffice to more than make the point that there were a lot of balls in motion, that I was the animating force in putting them in motion and that I know what I am talking about.

Bye Bye Gallagher

With all this in mind, let’s look at how Gallagher really came to be removed from his position in New Rochelle.

Between April and June 2014, there was a lot of fighting going on among board members over what to do about David Lacher misappropriating $13,500 to pay for his personal medical insurance, Quinn’s role in that, Quinn’s repeated lies to the board including the lies about the Aramark contract, the news that there was no Aramark contract, the failed Comptroller Stress Test, Quinn’s lies about the fire alarm system at New Rochelle High School and more.

Matters came to a head in June when Korostoff secured enough votes to fire Quinn (i.e., not renew his contract which was set to expire on June 30, 2014).

Osborne’s official start date was July 1, 2014, although he did not actually start until the week after the holiday weekend.

Inexplicably, even though Quinn had been fired amidst serious charges of, at best, gross incompetence, and surrounded by corruption on his watch, Osborne allowed Quinn to continue to show up for work at City Hall. Quinn spent a good deal of that time  alternating between shredding documents, undermining Korostoff’s efforts to get rid of Gallagher and his team and lobbying Osborne to reverse the decision of the board to fire him (Quinn) — something made possibly by Osborne’s contract in which the boarded ceded all authority for hiring and firing to the new Superintendent. Osborne even gave Quinn a "Golden Parachute in the form of $54,000 he was not entitled to receive.

In the middle of all this, I was pushing hard to terminate the Aramark relationship altogether having exposed Quinn and Kehl’s “dirty little secret”, that there was no Aramark contract.

Korostoff told me he discussed getting rid of Aramark with Kehl and David Lacher, who was finishing out his term as School Board President despite misappropriating $13,500 of taxpayer money for personal use.

As a sidebar, to put how Lacher was treated in context, consider the fate of former Columbus School Principal Sonya Nunez. For stealing one-third of the amount Lacher misappropriated, Nunez was fired and then criminally charged last year with Felony Grand Larceny for taking (and replacing) $4,500. She ended up pleading guilty to a misdemeanor petit larceny charge last week and was sentenced to three years probation; Lacher paid back the $13,500, and continued on as Board President until the end of his term. He remains on the school board today.

Korostoff, knowing his Interim Superintendent status was about to end, was reluctant to act on getting rid of Aramark without the support of Kehl and Lacher. Neither Kehl nor Lacher supported the move.

Korostoff says Kehl told him that the District could not fire Aramark because there was no contract. Think about that for a moment. The District’s lawyer says the District cannot fire a company BECAUSE they do not have a contract? Only in New Rochelle. Regardless, neither Kehl nor Lacher would support getting rid of Aramark and Korostoff refused to act on this own.  

Sensing that the opportunity to do SOMETHING was slipping away, I proposed an interim solution — stop the hemorrhaging by getting rid of Gallagher and his crew and worry about getting rid of Aramark later. After reviewing the original Aramark contract, I noted a clause in the contract that allowed the District to request a change in all or part of the Aramark management team without giving a reason.

After Korostoff raised his idea, Kehl and Quinn opposed this effort as well. Kehl claimed to be concerned that Aramark might file a lawsuit on the grounds that because there was no contract the clause that allowed removing a management team no longer applied or Gallagher could sue the District claiming his reputation was being damaged.

On June 13, 2014 I wrote to Korostoff:

Jeff,

There are two key people. According to Adam and my own experience.

Jeff Gilliam is the President of the Educational Services Division of Aramark. Steven Weiser is the Regional VP of the Educational Services Division of Aramark with responsibility for the greater NYC area. I have spoken to Weiser in the past and send him two emails (below).

My suggestion would be to contact Weiser, come to an understanding of the serious nature of the issues and ask him to propose a response.

Wait to see if he offers up the name of Jeff Gilliam — to gauge how seriously he is taking this matter — and whether he is prepared to come to you. It is a test of whether they consider this a serious matter and whether they feel the need to take serious action.

If he does not bring up a meeting and/or the name Jeff Gilliam after a bit, then you bring it up by telling him that if Aramark is interested in a positive relationship going forward you are going to expect Mr. Weiser to arrange a meeting in New Rochelle by the end of this month that includes someone at the level of Jeff Gilliam or above.

I cannot imagine you would send a letter not drafted or at least approved by Jeff Kehl so I am not going to actually write a letter or part of a letter.

What I will say is I think the nature of the approach should be along these lines…

It is not entirely clear the exact nature of our relationship. We had a contract for many years. We then sought bids to an RFP for a new contract. Aramark was the only bidder in June (2013) but no contract was ever put in place. The contract we have always had with you, going back many years, is that we have the right to request a replacement of the management team at any time for any reason. We wish to do so now. So, whatever each of us believes is the case with the status of contracts, my question to you is this “will you object to our request to replace the management team in New Rochelle”? Furthermore, if we make that request, how would that work? 

Once you have gauged his reaction to that — which had better be “we would most definitely NOT object” - you can go farther...

We have immediate needs over the summer to oversee certain construction work. Mr. Gallagher is already familiar with the work that needs to be done and the buildings where it needs to be done. At the same time, we feel that strict oversight by your company of the current Aramark team is of vital importance. How can we balance your needs with our needs, namely our desire to replace the management team as quickly as possible, our need to be assured that past practices which have gotten us to this point will cease, that we can have a smooth transition to a new team but also that our schools will be ready to open in September? Finally, without pointing fingers, we feel a lot of milk has been spilled here and that Aramark has some obligation to be a big part of cleaning that up. We want to hear about any personnel you might have that have direct experience righting the ship in situations like we have here in New Rochelle, a specialist who could be on site for some reasonable period of time in addition to a new team (at your expense).

Once we come to a meeting of the minds on these questions and begin to implement your plan to restore our confidence in your ability to manage our B&G operations then we can proceed to the next step, to discuss putting in place a contract along the lines envisioned in the RFP. If we cannot do that, then I will need to turn the matter over to our counsel.

That last line will, of course, get their attention so you convey that this is a one time offer to patch things up and move on.

Start with this guy….

I see no reason not to call him forthwith.

Steven Weiser

215-409-7990

[email protected]

Korostoff thanked me for my efforts. He spoke with Steve Weiser of Aramark on July 7, 2014.  He followed the approach I suggested. He did not get into specifics on Gallagher’s performance (or anyone else’s performance). Weiser readily agreed to replace Gallagher and the rest of the team by the end of the summer. He also agreed to bring in an experienced person to oversee Gallagher and the entire transition process. By the fall, Gallagher had been replaced by Arturo Riviera who remained as Director of Environmental Services until June 2016. He was replaced by Carl Thurnau in September 2016. Thurnau retains the position today. Aramark transferred Gallagher to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. During a return visit to New Rochelle, he reportedly told several District employees that things were “better” in the Harrisburg School District because there was even less oversight than New Rochelle. Gallagher was still working in Harrisburg when he was arrested by federal agents and criminally charged. The Harrisburg School District announced an investigation into Gallagher the day he was arraigned in federal court in White Plains.

Even though Quinn had been terminated on June 30, 2014 he continued to represent the District in dealings with Aramark - without the knowledge of Korostoff. An email exchange between Weiser and Quinn, confirms the call I had recommended to Korostoff took place.

John Quinn - Tuesdays meeting

From: "Weiser, Steven" <[email protected]>

To: "John Quinn ([email protected])" <[email protected]>

Date: 7/7/2014 2:27PM

Subject: Tuesdays meeting

John, I spoke this morning to Jeff Korostoff regarding the Aramark contract. I mentioned to him that you and I were scheduled to meet tomorrow.

After discussion, we agreed that It would probably make the most sense to cancel our meeting and to schedule a group meeting that would include you, Jeff, and the new superintendent.

I called the superintendent's office and she is looking at everyones calendars to find a mutually convenient meeting date.

Thanks. Steve

At no point in any of this was there any discussion as to the motivation for wishing to replace Gallagher for the simple reason that none was required under the contract and Steve Weiser had no objection to acceding to Korostoff’s request to replace the entire management team.

On July 16, 2014, in anticipation of the proposed meeting with Aramark and senior school officials, Jeff Kehl sent a letter to Steve Weiser to memorialize the agreement that had been made over the telephone between Korostoff and Weiser to replace Gallagher and the entire management team at the end of the summer:

At the request of our client, the City School District of the City of New Rochelle, this will confirm the advice previously given to Aramark by Dr. Jeffrey Korostoff, in his then-capacity as Interim Superintendent of Schools, that the School District and its Board of Education wish to replace the entire Aramark on-site facilities management team with a new team satisfactory to the School District.

Unless you feel it necessary, I don't think there is a need to go into detail regarding the reasons for this decision, other than to say that the School District wants a new team to have demonstrated proficiency in managing maintenance and repair projects undertaken both by School District staff and by outside contractors, in monitoring required record-keeping and training under best practices and applicable federal and state requirements, and in supervising facilities staff performance and monitoring overtime.

The School District understands that it may take Aramark some time to assemble and propose a suitable team, and the current Aramark management team has responsibilities for summer maintenance work and repairs. I assume that you will be discussing the process and timetable with the new Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Brian G. Osborne, and with Dr. Korostoff when you meet.

Once we have a process and timetable in place, it will be appropriate to review the formal agreement proposed by Aramark, which we understand was never finalized.

Jeffrey A. Kehl

Bond Schoeneck & King

Note how Kehl goes out of his way to dispense with providing a reason for removing Gallagher: “I don't think there is a need to go into detail regarding the reasons for this decision”. This per my recommendation in June.

The meeting between Weiser, Korostoff and Osborne took place the following week.

Anyone who wants to know more about my role in the ultimate termination of the Aramark contract effected June 30, 2016 need only read my series New Rochelle Board of Education: Criminal Enterprise Masquerading as an Educational Institution which, not coincidently began to run about 6 weeks after Osborne and Kehl convinced the board to bury the VRI investigation. It was at this point that I gave up any hope that the District would take steps to get its own house in order. It is why the District’s statement on Gallagher’s indictment is so disgustingly cynical.

Rooting Out or Rooting For Corruption?

CSDNR STATEMENT ON CORRUPTION: “The School District and the Board of Education fully support the Government’s efforts to root out public corruption, which victimizes the public and the citizens we serve, and steals from our students. If convictions or guilty pleas are obtained, the School District will be vigorous in pursuing any malefactors for damages sustained due to any corrupt activities.”

This is absolutely false.

I have already covered the obvious example where Osborne chose not to provide the VRI investigative reports to the DOJ despite the District’s knowledge that there was an active DOJ investigation underway. There are others.

For instance, one of Osborne’s first acts as Superintendent was to bury a specific example of construction corruption. On August 1, 2014, Brian Osborne signed an agreement with Wager Contracting to “resolve all claims arising or which might have arisen from such projects on an amicable basis” and that upon the payments of $50,000 in five installments shall “remise, discharge and release Wager from any further obligation to the School District with respect to the pricing of all Work performed for the school though and including June 30 2014”.

In other words, Osborne not only let Wager off the hook for the $286,000 fraud on the Planetarium project but "any and all work ever done by Wager prior to July 1, 2014".

Osborne made no effort to evaluate any other work done by Wager. No effort was made to refer the matter to law enforcement even though they were aware of the open DOJ investigation and the District's own VRI investigation which was supposed to be referrred to the DOJ. This was just Osborne (and Kehl) saying “you give us $50,000 and we will look the other way on everything”. An attempt (failed) to bury information on corruption in the New Rochelle school system.

Imagine Osborne and Kehl’s dismay when Wager Contracting turned up in the Federal Grand Jury Subpoena. While the District may have waived all claims, the United States government did not.

To my knowledge, there has never been any effort made to pursue construction contractor “malefactors” for “damages sustained due to any corrupt activities” for the simple reason that the District has never referred any such “malefactors” to law enforcement. This, even when confronted with the rather obvious corruption reported on Talk of the Sound, including 6 articles confirmed by Michael Orifici which include the Planetarium fraud and paying $5,000 to paint the flag pole at Trinity School.

The Wager case is interesting because that work was secretly offered to Mauro Zonzini by John Gallagher many months before the work was undertaken. I have a copy of the email where Zonzini gleefully replies to the news of the “emergency” ADA compliance project, “let’s make some money!”. Note the word “let’s”.  How is Gallagher making money by hiring Zonzini on a no-bid contract?  Zonzini’s guilty plea explains how — bribes and kickbacks involving Zonzini and Gallagher.

In January 2016, after I had successfully organized an effort to defeat the poorly conceived school bond proposal, Assistant Superintendent for Business Jeff White contacted me. He told me he had been finally, after months of asking, obtained Osborne's content to meet with me. White and I met at the Nautilus Diner for breakfast. That meeting lasted 5 hours.

During that meeting, we discussed the DOJ investigation, my role in bringing it forward and the information I had delivered to the DOJ as well as VRI. White said he was unaware of the VRI investigation. White started with the District in January 2015, the month after Osborne and Kehl conspired with the board to bury the VRI report. I suggested that White read the report as it would save a lot of time in my explaining about all the corruption in the District (for months, White continued to say he was unable to obtain a copy of the report and never said he had read it).

White has said, often, that the New Rochelle School District is "the worst school district I have ever seen" (in terms of corruption and incompetence). I reminded White, each time, that the District was corrupt at every level, in every direction, that people were either directly involved in the corruption or were in a position of responsibility to prevent it but turned a blind eye. I warned him that those people would take steps to undermine or remove him for working with me to address corruption, including board members. And they did. At that diner meeting, I gave White a summary of what I told the DOJ and VRI including a long list of names of people who were corrupt or ineffective in dealing with the corruption and needed to go. I said that what he really needed to do first was drop a neutron bomb on the business office and start over from scratch (some of that as since happened).

Over the course of the next year, I worked closely with White to identify specific examples of corruption. I do not want to get into the details here for a reason I will explain in a moment. White and I had good success but progress was slow.

That all ended in December 2016.

Osborne sent Jeff White a text message telling him that if he communicated with me in any way, directly or indirectly, even to say “hello” at the grocery store, he would be terminated.

For the next several weeks, White continued to communicate with me anyway, once directly on the telephone on December 17th, the day of my wife’s mother’s funeral, and several more times through three specific intermediaries who I will not identify. I angrily shut that down, telling White to stop sending one-way messages to me and just pick up the phone and call (both were violations of Osborne’s edict). Since December 17th, White has not communicated with me directly.

White’s efforts to comply with Osborne’s termination threat has created some odd situations. In 2016, White asked me to be a member of the newly re-formed District Wide Health & Safety Committee. In 2017, if I ask a question of White, he gives his answer by pretending to address someone else in the room while I listen. White skipped the last two meetings altogether.

It has been my hope that something would change, preferably the departure of Brian Osborne and Jeff Kehl, so that I could continue to work with White to ACTUALLY address corruption in the District. Even after Osborne released his deceptive statement on Gallagher, I offered to turn over new information on corruption involving Trinity Elementary School, Isaac E. Young Middle School and New Rochelle High School so that Osborne could actually cooperate with the DOJ by turning over the information I provided to them and taking credit for it. As expect, I received no reply and ran one of the stories (Jimmy Bonanno’s stolen driveway). I expect the other two will be ready to run this month (I am awaiting replies to FOIL requests).

I know this is a lot of information but it is only a fraction of what I know about the long-standing efforts to suppress information about corruption in the City School District of New Rochelle. It existed under Organisciak and Quinn and Kehl and board members like David Lacher, Deidre Polow, Chrisanne Petrone and the rest. It has continued under Brian Osborne.

The statement on Gallagher’s indictment issued on May 23, 2017 is a deliberate effort to deceive the public and the media. It worked too. News reports of Gallagher’s arrest, like that carried by the Journal News, contain elements of Osborne’s statement without challenge or filter.

John Gallagher was not just “some consultant” but a key figure in running the business operations of the school district, he was not removed for “cause”. His removal came about through my effort. The District did not cooperate with the Department of Justice as they have claimed.

And the District is not now and has never been committed to exposing and prosecuting corruption within the school district.

More lies from a school board and administration built upon lies, committed only to the “big lie”.

NEXT: New Rochelle Board of Education: Criminal Enterprise Masquerading as an Educational Institution Part XXII

New Rochelle Board of Education: Criminal Enterprise Masquerading as an Educational Institution Table of Contents

REFERENCE LINKS IN THIS ARTICLE

Gallagher Arrest, Zonzini Conviction, District’s Statement on Gallagher

USA v John C Gallagher Jr. Indictment

Mauro Zonzini Cooperation Agreement

Gallagher Indictment Zonzini Plea PR

Mauro Zonzini Information Filed

New Rochelle Board of Education: Criminal Enterprise Masquerading as an Educational Institution

John Gallagher Fired by Aramark

John Gallagher of Aramark Arrested by Feds for Bribery Scheme in City School District of New Rochelle

Former New Rochelle Schools Director John Gallagher Pleads Not Guilty, Mauro Zonzini Pleads Guilty in Federal Court

New Rochelle Board of Education Citizen Advisory Committee on the Budget - Complete Set of Documents and Video

New Rochelle Board of Education Citizen Budget Committee Recommends Millions in Cost Savings Measures and Presentation Improvements

Community Advisory Committee Report for the 2013-2014 Budget

School Officials Knew of Dangerous Fire Safety Conditions at New Rochelle High School For Years, Failed to Act

New Rochelle Board of Education Set to Turn Blind Eye to Rat's Nest That is Aramark Schools 

Flag Pole Paint Job at Trinity School Provides Primer on Financial Corruption in the City School District of New Rochelle

New Rochelle Business Manager John Quinn Lies to Board about Purchasing Agent, T&M Contracts

Quinn Lies to Board about new Aramark Contract (video)

New Rochelle Avoids New York State Comptroller's "Fiscal Stress" List Old-Fashioned Way: Not Filing Required Paperwork

Repeatedly Warned Of Structural Failure, New Rochelle Superintendent Rejected Pleas to Replace Webster Roof a Year Before Ceiling Collapse

Why New Rochelle School District Business Manager John Quinn Must Go

Dismissed Under a Cloud, Former New Rochelle Administrator Given $54,000 “Golden Parachute”

Email from Cox to Korostoff on Gallagher Removal Strategy

Korostoff Thanks to Robert Cox For Gallagher Research

Weiser of Aramark Email to Quinn on Korostoff Phone Call

Kehl Letter to Weiser of Aramark Confirming Korstoff Call to Replace Gallagher

Wager Contracting “Get Out of Jail Free Card” Agreement Signed by Osborne

For First Time, Former New Rochelle Assistant Superintendent John Quinn’s Name Surfaces in Federal Corruption Investigation

Institute For Legal Reform on DOJ Cooperation Credit

U.S. Department of Justice Finds New Rochelle Violated Civil Rights of Wheelchair-Bound Students in NRHS Fire Incident, Recommends Compensatory Damages to Families

New Rochelle Board of Education Issues Statement on Feltenstein Evacuation Case

New Rochelle Fire Chief Denies Claims by School Officials Following Incident at High School

New Rochelle School District Slapped with $26 Million Dollar Federal Lawsuit for Failing to Evacuate Wheelchair-Enabled Student

City School District Of New Rochelle Sues City of New Rochelle Fire Department in Federal Court

Former New Rochelle School Principal Pleads Guilty to Stealing $4,525; Gambling Addiction Blamed

Former New Rochelle Board of Education President David Lacher Makes Material False Statement to District Auditors

Taxpayer Dollars Used to Pay Medical Insurance Premiums for New Rochelle Board of Education President

Lacher's Medical Insurance Woes: The Story Behind the Story

David Lacher Email to Board of Education Members Prior to Talk of the Sound Story on Medical Insurance Debts

Lacher's Medical Insurance Debts and His Conflict of Interest with Assistant Superintendent for Business & Administration John Quinn

Disgraced New Rochelle Board President David Lacher, Refuses to Sit in the Corner Where He Belongs