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Record number of school employee misconduct complaints


Investigators charged with probing misconduct in the city’s public school system received a record number of complaints last calendar year. 

The 9,813 complaints of fraud, financial mismanagement and criminal activity detailed in a report by the Special Commissioner of Investigation for the New York City School District represented a nearly 60 percent increase over 2021. But, the agency noted, they also “represented a return to business-as-usual after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.” 

SCI oversees misconduct at the Department of Education, which has 135,000 employees, as well at the New York City Teachers Retirement System and the Board of Education Retirement System. 

The number of complaints surged from the 6,185 claims made in 2021, when nearly two-thirds of the city’s public school students participated in remote classes full-time. It also marked a slight increase from the 9,638 complaints received in 2019, the year before the pandemic hit the city.

But the agency is dealing with a surge in cases while understaffed. Although SCI has a budgeted headcount of 69 employees, the agency has 19 vacant positions.

“However, even a full complement of 69 employees would scantly be enough to perform truly comprehensive oversight of such a massive entity as the DOE. To fully realize the mission of this office, our workforce must ultimately expand beyond the current quota of 69 employees — a goal we hope to realize in the coming years,” the report noted.

The agency probed 351 cases that were opened last year while closing 467 cases. The vast majority of the complaints received by the special commissioner’s office  — 7,607 — were referred to other agencies, such as the Police Department and the Administration for Children’s Services.

SCI also opened 136 investigations involving sexual misconduct by DOE staffers and vendors, substantiating 40 of the allegations. The agency referred 17 cases to prosecutors, including one involving vendor Iber Poma II, who was arrested June 20 for allegedly raping a 12-year-old student three days in a row at a park in the Bronx. He has been charged with rape in the first degree and several other charges including sex abuse. His criminal case is ongoing.

In total, SCI’s probes led to four arrests, including of Cristian Cabrera, a school aide who was arrested September 20 for allegedly endangering the welfare of a child. His case in Queens Criminal Court is also ongoing.

Findings prompt call for review 

Notably, although SCI received 11 whistleblower complaints and completed investigations into eight of those claims, none of them substantiated. The agency most frequently substantiated complaints that were related to staffers leaving children unsupervised, failure to report and employee misconduct.

Additionally, an SCI probe found that Daniel Miller, the deputy executive director at the Board of Education Retirement System, allegedly lied about receiving a job offer, a fib he parlayed into getting a pay raise. According to SCI, Miller received a $28,549 pay increase after asking BERS’ executive director, Sanford Rich, to match the salary of a job he claimed to have been offered at an Ohio pension fund.

Rich granted the raise without verifying the job offer, then asked the board to raise his salary to $257,575, or 1 percent more than Miller, but was denied. Although SCI recommended that the board consider discipline for both Rich and Miller last August, no disciplinary action has been taken.

But the pension system’s failure to discipline Rich and Miller prompted City Comptroller Brad Lander to urge the state Department of Financial Services to launch a review of BERS. He also cited a “severe lack of board oversight” of the pension system’s budget and investment process.

Last month, Miller’s salary was slashed from $262,650 to $200,000, or 24 percent, “in response to SCI’s findings,” according to the agency's report.



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