Thursday, September 27, 2018

Leonie Haimson on NYCDOE Pupil Transportation Scandal

Having worked for 35 years in Brooklyn Williamsburg's District 14 with its massive Hasidic population who block vote as told to, I am never surprised to see the special treatment they get from politicians that amount to payoffs. $8 million "disappeared" in the 1980s and no one went to jail despite an FBI invasion of the district. (The two dead Superintendents - who were guilty - but everyone else escaped.)

This story goes way beyond Pupil Transportation and if more digging goes on they would find the entire DOE is scandal ridden from top to bottom. And let me add that the fact the UFT turns its back on this instead of exposing what is going on borders on supporting it.

By the way, here is a comment from someone about our new chancellor on Leonie's thread:
I said here before after years of experience with Carranza as Supe in SF, this guy is a total scammer and phony. He gets people to support him as a SJW and that shouldn't be difficult in the NYC as in SF, but the fact remains he's an empty vessel. He left SFUSD in a sex scandal, then bailed quickly on Houston for a higher paying job. Carranza is all about Carranza and, like in SFUSD, if you are a parent who want honors classes for students who demonstrate ability, you will be personally labeled a racist by the scammer in chief. Welcome to his party in NYC and you are not invited. I wouldn't wish him on anyone.
Also on the thread is a discussion about how public students were denied busing while Yeshiva kids were OK'd.

Here is Leonie's report on the situation based on reporting by the NY Post's Sue Edelman.
Amazing story by Sue Edelman in today’s NY Post showing that 24 people at the scandal-plagued DOE Office of Pupil Transportation are given cars at city expense – including several who do little but drive it to and from the office each day. 

This includes a Rabbi , a “liaison to yeshivas” who gets both a car and a personal driver! 

Rabbi Morris Ausfresser, a liaison to yeshivas, who lives in Brooklyn. Another OPT employee serves as his personal assistant and chauffeur. “I can’t answer any questions,” he said Friday

According to See Through NY, Ausfresser has been working at DOE as an “Administrative Quality Assurance Specialist” for at least 11 years, and  received $101,873 salary in 2017. Since I don’t know the name of this “personal assistant and chauffeur” I can’t look up his name.

Wonder also how many yeshiva kids get busing at city expense to schools that deny them a minimally adequate education!

Several years ago, I published a blog with a link to a spreadsheet FOILed by CEC 31 President Mike Reilly  in 2012, showing that a higher percent of private school kids had their applications for busing approved by OPT for safety variances than public school kids.   This followed the elimination by DOE of middle-school busing from many areas of Queens and Staten Island that had no public transportation, and which policy change may have contributed to the death of at least one public school student.  Wonder if that’s still the case.

After Mike received the data from DOE, in Jan. 2012, Queens PEP member Dmytro Fedkowskyj introduced a resolution for to create an  advisory committee of stakeholders to oversee the process of granting safety busing variances, which would include some CEC members.  This resolution was tabled after a contentious meeting by the mayoral majority of appointees on the PEP. 

Perhaps Dmytro or Patrick can tell us if this committee was ever created.  Because of the way the new DOE website has been designed, I can no longer get access to any of the PEP minutes

One of the OPT staff mentioned below in Sue’s article who was given a private car is the OPT safety director, Paul Weydig, a manager who oversees the [faulty and perhaps legally defective] vetting of bus drivers. 

According to See Through, Weydig made $110,131  in 2017 - also as an “Administrative Quality Assurance Specialist” – only a little more than Ausfresser.  

Weydig’s wife who also reportedly works at OPT, “Lisa D’Amato, a contract compliance officer whose unit rubber-stamped the questionable bus-driver applications”  is not included in See Through NY for some reason.

Also, now that it looks like Mike  Reilly will be going to Albany as an Assemblymember from Staten Island, perhaps he can get easier access to DOE data than the rest of us mere mortals. It’s a topic  that needs loads more transparency.  Thanks Leonie

Scandal-plagued school bus system sends taxpayer-funded cars for employees

school bus
While parents have deluged a city hotline with nearly 102,000 complaints about late or no-show school buses, 25 employees in the Department of Education’s Office of Pupil Transportation get taxpayer-funded city cars to commute from their homes.
Some — including managers with cushy six-figure gigs — do little or no field work, according to co-workers and records.
“They’re all seen in the office all day. They travel to and from work on the taxpayer’s dime,” one insider fumed.
They also get city credit cards to for gas.
Those who have enjoyed the perk include:
  • OPT safety director Paul Weydig, a manager who oversees the vetting of bus drivers. Last week, investigator Eric Reynolds, a retired NYPD detective, accused Weydig and others of bypassing him to sign off on drivers without him doing a criminal background check. Weydig, who lives in Port Washington, L.I.– 24 miles from OPT’s Long Island City office — took his city-issued Ford sedan home and back, doing little or no field work on a daily basis, records show.
  • His wife, Lisa D’Amato, a contract compliance officer whose unit rubber-stamped the questionable bus-driver applications, rode with him. Since The Post raised questions about the arrangement last week, Weydig “is no longer in possession of a city car,” a co-worker said. Weydig did not return calls. DOE officials would not comment..
  • Everett Parker, a D’Amato underling and Weydig pal, also stopped driving a city car last week after inquiries by The Post. His trip reports list “H to W to H” (home to work to home) nearly every day.
  • Elena Ruocco, a manager of field inspection, lives in Staten Island. She drops off her child at school before heading to the office, sources said. “While other kids waited for hours, Ruocco’s kid got to school on time in the comfort of a city-owned vehicle driven by his mother while she is getting paid by the taxpayer,” a colleague said. City rules forbid use of city cars for personal reasons.
  • Rabbi Morris Ausfresser, a liaison to yeshivas, who lives in Brooklyn. Another OPT employee serves as his personal assistant and chauffeur. “I can’t answer any questions,” he said Friday.
  • Dominick Ragusa, a recently retired investigator. He made a round-trips from his Queens home almost daily with virtually no field work, records show.
Under city rules, employees may take cars home if they “perform work frequently in the field,” respond to emergencies during non-business hours, or if there is not secure parking to leave the car overnight. OPT has a spacious, fenced lot.
Parker, Ruocco and Ragusa could not be reached for comment.
DOE spokeswoman Miranda Barbot would not answer questions about the cars, saying “This matter is being investigated.”
The probe came as the OPT hotline received 101,814 bus complaints, compared to 86,763 at the same time last year, Barbot said.

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