Archive for the tag 'scandals'

Teacher Alini Brito (r.) was found naked from the waist up with co-worker Cindy Mauro (l.) by a janitor in a James Madison High School classroom in 2009.

Cindy Mauro (left) and Alini Brito (right)

More than three years after being fired for an after-hours sexual tryst in a classroom, a judge has ordered the Department of Education to rehire the two Madison High School teachers who got dirty in the dark.

Cindy Mauro and Alini Brito were fired in December 2010, more than a year after reports surfaced that the two foreign language teachers were caught by a janitor “undressed” in an empty classroom. The teachers have since been fighting for their jobs back, and an appeals court decided that their termination was “shockingly disproportionate,” since both were consenting adults not at the school in an official capacity at the time of the incident.

“The penalty of termination of unemployment is shockingly disproportionate to (their) misconduct,” the Manhattan Appellate Division wrote in their decision. The five-member panel noted that “lesser penalties have been imposed where a teacher had an ongoing relationship or engaged in inappropriate behavior with a student.

Mauro and Brito’s lawyer suggested to the Daily News that they may pursue back pay as well.

Department of Education officials may appeal the decision. If they choose not to, they may still impose less sever penalties against the teachers.

The two were caught undressed in a classroom in 2009 by a janitor. It was later reported that they had a few drinks after school at a local bar, then went back to the school to watch a student performance. At some point, they headed to a darkened classroom and undressed.

At the time, Mauro said she was helping give Brito, who suffers from diabetes, an insulin shot. A state arbitrator later determined that the two were “more likely than not” engaged in a “sexual encounter.”

Governor Andrew Cuomo (Source: Philip Kamrass / Times Union)

Governor Andrew Cuomo (Source: Philip Kamrass / Times Union)

Governor Andrew Cuomo vowed to clean up the almost cartoonish level of corruption in Albany by setting up an independent special investigative committee. The New York Daily News is reporting that Cuomo’s plan would allow for the committee to have subpoena power to probe the offices of any lawmakers suspected of breaking the rules.

The sheer volume of corruption scandals piling up in Albany in recent years has spurred Cuomo to take action into his own hands. After legislative leaders failed to come up with a package to address the rampant problem on their own, Cuomo is using his power to set up an independent investigative committee that he hopes will restore people’s image of the state government.

“I believe it hurts the state and I believe it hurts the level of trust with state government … I’m going to restore that level of trust,” Cuomo said.

Cuomo introduced an extensive anti-corruption package, but lawmakers have dragged their feet. The package includes making it a crime for lawmakers who fail to report attempted bribes, making it easier for district attorneys to bring cases against suspected lawmakers, reforming the campaign finance system and creating a public financing option for campaigns. Cuomo also wants to introduce an independent enforcement unit to the state Board of Elections.

Democratic Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver argued to include legislative representation on the Board of Elections enforcement unit and Republicans were opposed to using taxpayer money to finance campaigns, points which led to the failure of the legislature to go along with Cuomo’s measures. As a result, Cuomo concluded that the legislature is happy with just policing themselves, a result he could not accept, leading to the latest proposal of an independent panel.

In response, lawmakers responded with indifference to Cuomo’s push to clean up Albany, instead focusing attention on legislation they wish to pass.

“We are focused on closing out the legislative session, including passing the Women’s Equality Act,” a spokesman for Silver said in light of Cuomo’s plans.

Assemblyman Peter Abbate seemed dismissive when questioned on Cuomo’s anti-corruption plans and wondered whether the independent commission will in turn examine the governor’s actions.

“That’s him. I don’t know what he’s up to. We’re trying to complete our work — a lot of the things are what he wants us to do,” Abbate told the Daily News.

State Senator John Sampson (center) (Source: nysenate.gov)

State Senator John Sampson (center) (Source: nysenate.gov)

The investigation into the affairs of State Senator John Sampson continues to broaden as new reports of shady behavior keeps bubbling to the surface. According to a report by the New York Post, the latest scandal involves three cases where campaign donations were found to be missing from Sampson’s records.

The missing donations, made by political action committees, spanned from 2009 to 2012. The first questionable instance occurred on July 17, 2009, when Lawpac, an organization run by the New York State Trial Lawyers Association, donated $3,000 to Sampson. Sampson’s records indicate that he only received $1,000 from the group even though the full check was cashed.

A similar occurrence happened on January 22, 2010. Sampson received $1,000 from the Educational Leadership PAC but Sampson reported that he only took in $500 from the organization. Again, the full check was cashed. The Post goes on to describe another mysterious instance of bad record keeping as well as a slew of mysterious refunds to PACs that are also not properly accounted for:

The Committee for Action for a Responsible Electorate PAC reported a contribution of $1,000 to Sampson’s campaign on Jan. 21, 2010. A spokesman for the PAC says the check was cashed for its full $1,000 amount on Feb. 2 2010. The cash does not show up on Sampson’s records, state campaign-finance records show.

In addition to the missing money, The Post found Sampson mysteriously refunded $11,450 in donations to at least eight PACs in 2010. However, the refunds do not show up as receipts in the campaign filings of the PACs, which include the Real Estate Board PAC, Uniformed Firefighters Association/FIREPAC and the Pharmacy PAC.

Mitch Alter, Sampson’s treasurer, blamed the missing cash on poor record keeping.

“What we’re talking about are small amounts. If mistakes were made, we’ll correct them. There’s nothing nefarious here,” Alter told the Post.

Mistake or not, Sampson’s alleged actions, which include a bribery scandal, threatening witnesses, missing charity money and charging business men retainer fees for Senatorial services, has led to a changes in judicial rules governing foreclosure suits, according to a another Post report

As a result of Sampson allegedly stealing $440,000 from foreclosure accounts that he was supposed to safeguard, the courts are now instituting a check that confirms that cash from foreclosure auctions is properly deposited with clerks.

“Because of the Sampson situation, we realized we had no way to check up if the referee was complying with the law,” Lawrence Knipel, the Brooklyn Supreme Court administrative judge for civil matters, told the Post. “We weren’t double-checking.”

The Post described how the new rule will prevent scams that people like Sampson allegedly partook in:

Civil judges assign attorneys, or “referees,” who are paid $500 to oversee the auction of a foreclosed property, pay off the mortgage and return any leftover money to the homeowner.

Until the recent reform, there wasn’t any mechanism that checked for excess money that should be returned to the homeowner, which allowed crooks to make off with the dough.

But now when the winning bid exceeds the amount owed on the house, the clerk will alert the judge and it will be the judge’s responsibility to check 60 days after the auction whether the money was properly deposited, Knipel said.

The new oversight rules have been in effect for over two weeks and will be expanded to all boroughs in the city in a short time.

Source: 401 (K) via Flickr

Corrupt New York politicians are dominating the news lately, most recently the scandal surrounding State Senator John Sampson. While the alleged crimes of Sampson and Malcolm Smith are serious in size and scope, they aren’t the only local politicians skirting on the edges of the rules, especially when it comes to those governing state campaign finance laws.

A report by the Associated Press cites studies done by the New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG) that have found over 100,000 violations committed by New York politicians since 2011. The violations also include failures by campaign committees to file accurate reports.

Bill Mahoney, a researcher for NYPIRG, stated that his group noted 278 improper corporate donations among other violations.

“Some of them are flagrant violations of the state’s contribution limits. Others are more minor peccadillos that show a complete disregard for the law because they occur in such huge numbers,” the Chronicle reported Mahoney saying.

The report explained why nothing is being to done to enforce violations:

Barbara Bartoletti of the League of Women Voters, whose group has monitored the state Board of Elections for decades, said then Gov. Eliot Spitzer budgeted $1.5 million for board enforcement of election laws in 2009, but it was never used because the agency is controlled by the Republican and Democratic parties. It has no will for enforcement, she said. “Right now it has no investigators.”

The NYPIRG report says that corruption on the state level is “exponentially greater” then the corruption on the city level. Governor Andrew Cuomo cited the report as a clear need to move away from the current system, which allows state officials to police themselves, and is pushing for greater independent enforcement.

The AP report noted that local State Senator Marty Golden was found to be in violation of more minor offenses have “seemingly questionable expenses.” Apparently, on his way to and from Albany, Golden refuels his car using campaign cash in Mahwah and Hackensack, New Jersey, where gas is cheaper. [Corrected: See below, with statement from Golden's office]

Golden, who is for stronger enforcement, defended his actions by stating that he saves 30 cents a gallon by filling in up in New Jersey on his 170 mile trip to Albany.

Correction (May 10 at 11:40 a.m.): Our original post indicated that the NYPIRG report noted “minor offenses” by Golden in spending campaign cash on gas in New Jersey. In fact, that was an observation by the Associated Press, and was listed as a “seemingly questionable expense,” not a violation. Golden spokesperson Ray Riley wrote the following to Sheepshead Bites:

It’s not a violation, nor has it been considered a violation.  If you read the AP article, the author writes: “The AP review of finance records found seemingly questionable expenses..”  which means the AP found them to be questionable, not the New York State Campaign Finance or Board of Elections.

We regret any confusion this may have caused.

John Sampson (center) Source: nysenate.gov

It looks like the federal net for nabbing corrupt New York politicians is getting wider. According to a New York Times report, State Senator John Sampson, whose recently redrawn 19th District represents a chunk of Sheepshead Bay, was ensnared in a broader federal corruption probe that has already led to charges against other local pols.

Sampson’s charges stem from conversations he had with former Queens State Senator Shirley Huntley, who has pleaded guilty of stealing taxpayer money through a nonprofit organization.

In March of 2012, Sampson allegedly sought out Huntley’s advice after being approached by a businessman allegedly offering bribes in exchange for help regarding his business at Kennedy International Airport. The airport is located in the district Huntley used to represent.

Through court papers, the Times learned that Huntley, as a cooperating federal witness, recorded conversations she had with several local politicians, which, according to prosecutors, yielded useful evidence.

Sampson is expected to be charged with obstruction of justice. At this time, it is not known if other politicians will also be charged.

Leon M. Goldstein High School. Source: InsideSchools.org

If you are a reader of the New York Daily News, you might have noticed a peculiar trend emerging in their regular coverage: an unending fascination with sex and high schools.

Just last month, we covered such a story, more out of an obsessive tendency towards providing sweeping coverage of all things Sheepshead Bay than for the sort of sensationalism the Daily News is aiming for.

Today, we have a similar story from the News to report, and as it concerns Leon M. Goldstein High School, we still feel obliged to give you a heads up, despite the questionable ethics in such tawdry reportage on display.

The story revolves around a 35-year-old male security guard for Kingsborough Community College who started a relationship with a female student from Leon M. Goldstein High School, which shares the same campus grounds as the college, at 2001 Oriental Boulevard. The guard has since been fired from his post once the mother of the student complained to school officials.

Despite poor judgement on the part of the guard, both parties were of consenting age, and nothing illegal or grossly immoral took place. The guard was an employee of the college, not the high school, and he was not the girl’s teacher or supervisor.

The guard’s firing was based solely on the premise of his behavior being a “bad idea,” and not representative of expected conduct for a school employee.

The Daily News then goes on to tie this story with the one we previously mentioned, concerning  a reassigned Goldstein assistant principal who was accused of having an inappropriately close (albiet non-sexual) friendship with a student.

The dots the Daily News is ostensibly trying to connect, proclaiming Leon M. Goldstein High School as a “hotspot for illicit love affairs,” is both lazy and unfair, especially considering the swift actions taken on part of the school administers in dealing with both matters.

A cropped version of the photo Dranovsky allegedly posted to a prostitution website.

If you’re trying to spice up your love life, it might not be wise to have a kinky photo session in this day and age, because, you know, the internet.

A young Russian immigrant with a student visa, Ruzilya Khusnutdinova, learned the hard way when scandalous pictures of her surfaced on an online sex escort website without her knowing. Khusnutdinova, who claims that her ex-boyfriend, Brighton Beach resident Vladimir Dranovsky, took the pictures on a romantic getaway. According to the New York Post, she is suing Dranovsky for $8 million in emotional distress, $4 million for defamation, and another $4 million for violating New York Civil Law, for a grand total of $16 million.

Dranovsky, who runs a dental practice at 2101 Bay Ridge Parkway in Bensonhurst, told the Daily News, “She’s just probably making it up because she wants to get some money.”

Besides allegedly distributing Khusnutdinova’s pictures to a sex escort website, Dranovsky has also been accused of making false reports to immigration authorities about Khisnutdinova’s immigration status, physical abuse, and for holding his ex’s passport and other immigration documents for ransom. According to courthousenews, Khusnutdinova claims that Dranovsky “was threatening her with physical harm, and that he can ‘deport’ her.”

In the matter of Khusnutdinova’s passport, Dranovsky was charged with grand larceny, but pleaded guilty to a lesser charge last February.

Source: lmghs.org

Christian Del Re, an assistant principal at Leon M. Goldstein High School for the Sciences, is facing disciplinary charges after allegedly sending nearly 3,000 text messages to an 18-year-old female student over a 90-day period. Reports also say Del Re engaged in marathon late-night phone sessions with the student, sometimes as late as 3 a.m.

Del Re’s constant texting and late night phone calls came to light when a student tipped off school officials, reports the Daily News. The Department of Education has begun the process of terminating Del Re from the school system.

“We are moving forward with disciplinary charges against Christian Del Re and will be seeking his termination. He has been reassigned and is no longer at the school,” said Connie Pankratz, a spokeswoman for the Education Department.

Del Re has been adamant in claiming that nothing in his text messages or phone calls were sexual in nature, or inappropriate in any other way. He claims that all he was doing was providing help and guidance to the teen who was having trouble with her boyfriend, getting into college, and looking for work.

Students have also come to the defense of Del Re as well.

“We miss him. Hopefully he’ll come back,” a student told NY1. Del Re also received high marks from the popular “ratemyteacher” website, receiving praise like, “He is awesome,” and “Mr. Dee is a gee.” It’s unlikely, however, that Del Re’s status as “a gee,” will save him in light of DOE Chancellor Dennis Walcott’s proclamation last February that all staffers would face immediate dismissal regarding any proven inappropriate contact with students.

Photo by Erica Sherman

by Willie Simpson

Poor Anthony Weiner. Publicly shamed and denied a dignified departure for a sin most constituents see as inconsequential, it’s hard not to feel a bit sorry for the man. His colleagues turned their backs on him, he was forced to leave Congress, and he suffered some of the worst ridicule of a public figure that we’ve seen in generations. And, in the end, it’s hard to see how the punishment fits the crime.

By comparison, it’s truly remarkable to see how some politicians managed to survive being caught in massive embarrassment, corruption or crime, keeping their seats and, sometimes, moving on to higher positions in government.  Here is a list of 10 notorious politicians – local and national, present and past – who somehow kept their jobs while Weiner is hung out to dry.

Check out the rundown.

Photo by Erica Sherman.

Benjy Bronk (Photo by Erica Sherman)

Hecklers shouted “Pervert!” and demanded detailed information about Congressman Anthony Weiner’s genitals at this afternoon press conference, in which the beleaguered pol resigned, barring any chance of allowing a man with 26 years of public service in his wake to end the most embarrassing chapter with a modicum of dignity.

The most vocal of the hecklers was The Howard Stern Show‘s Benjy Bronk, who stood up in the middle of Weiner’s statement and demanded to know if the congressman was “fully erect” in the now infamous photos mistakenly posted to Twitter, and also demanded to know the length of his penis. Members of the press bristled at Bronk’s antics and later blamed him for spurring the congressman to leave the conference without taking questions, and police ultimately removed Bronk from the Midwood senior center where Weiner delivered his statement. Bronk’s attacks were an encore; he shouted similar comments during Weiner’s confessional press conference earlier this month.

A member of an unidentified publication also shouted “Yeah! Bye bye, pervert!” when Weiner said he was stepping down.

Watch Weiner’s full statement, unedited with the interruptions, and see an interview with Benjy Bronk conducted after the conference.

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