But a year later, on June 27, 2007, the Times reversed history with a story headlined misleadingly “New Report Clears School of Cheating.” Actually, Special Commissioner of Investigation Richard Condon did not clear anybody of cheating. “I can’t say that there wasn’t cheating,” he told the Times. “What I say is that the investigation showed no credible evidence that there was cheating. And certainly no evidence that this principal covered up evidence that there was cheating.”
But there was no such call. Nor could I get Randi on the phone after the Times broke the SCI-bites-OSI story. Overnight I became an invisible UFT member on the basis of a dubious-to-the-point-of-corrupt report signed and publicly endorsed by Special Commissioner Condon. Only later did I learn that Condon was Randi’s special friend as well.
Leo Casey, Vice President for High Schools, agreed to see me in Randi’s stead, but not until late August. Clearly, the UFT was in no rush to defend me or even find out whether their once celebrated whistleblower was a phony. Still, I expected major solidarity. Leo was my designated union mentor following my election as Cobble Hill Chapter leader in 2003. But when we met at 52 Broadway, the breeze was chilly. All he would pledge was a NYSUT lawyer, if and when I was charged on the yet unsubstantiated corporal punishment cases behind my rendition. Apparently, Randi’s plan for “an independent investigation” was off the table.
During our meeting Leo kept getting calls from Randi and he kept excusing himself to consult with her. “Tell Randi I’m here,” I said more than once. Finally, she appeared, seeming surprised to see me. I told her that I felt abandoned. She assured me otherwise and promised to lobby the City Council and the Attorney General on my behalf. Wait, I said, until I finish my rebuttal that would serve as a guide to any future inquiry into SCI’s frame-up.
Flash forward to January 18, 2008, I hand-delivered copies of my 142-page dissent to Randi’s and Leo’s offices. I waited for a response, but heard nothing. I approached Randi at the February D.A. She promised to read the document over the upcoming break. Again no response. When Leo tried to avoid me at the March assembly, I grabbed his arm and said, “So?”
“I don’t see what we can do for you,” he said, expressionless.
I interpreted Randi response--a meeting with Secretary Michael Mendel--as another delaying tactic: I emailed my growing impatience on June 16:
But why am I talking to Mike instead of you? Your aloofness is weird. You know we've got Klein and Condon nailed in a damaging cover-up, but you hesitate to pull the trigger. A simple press conference or call to the Times or appearance on NY1 would break the case wide open. You would rescue an honest whistleblower and help clean out corrupt supervisors. What's stopping you?
You are talking to michael because I am trying to get this done-phil-aloof Cmon Have you not noticed the budget cuts I have to make sure it is accurate, and I have to focus on budget now. This can be a summer issue-budget can not.
Mendel established a committee consisting of NYSUT attorney Chris Callagy and Teacher reporter Jim Callaghan. All three would vet my rebuttal and report back to Randi. The vetting over the summer and fall was unanimous: the SCI report was judged a dirty trick. Hard-headed counsel Callagy called my rebuttal “fantastic.” To strengthen Randi’s conviction I arranged for a Deep Throat with inside knowledge of Condon’s m.o. to clue her in. That was the tipping point. At a November meeting of the Mendel Committee, Randi promised the moon—a press conference on the steps of City Hall vouching for my credibility and zapping Condon’s. But the big revelation, unexpectedly frank but less than admirable, was why she resisted so long.
One last detail: Randi asked me to prepare a 7-page press release summarizing my rebuttal. Relieved but burnt out and resenting that I had to write her release, I dawdled until the following June 2, only eight weeks before her departure for Washington. On July 27, her last Monday as local UFT President, she met with Mendel, Callaghan, and me. Callagy, who had vetted the release, was on vacation in Maine
No surprise, the City Hall extravaganza was out. Apart from timing, Randi said that there was no guarantee that reporters would show up. Better to drop an exclusive on a columnist she could trust--like Juan Gonzalez of the Daily News. As long as she linked her authority and office to my grand OSI-substantiated, UFT-vetted j’accuse, the venue was unimportant to me. Before she phoned Gonzalez, she needed a one-page pitch letter, which I supplied on July 31. Acting as intermediary, Mendel asked me to transpose the letter text into factual bullets, which I sent on August 13.
And then I waited … and waited. Throughout last fall, Mendel made excuses: Randi was traveling or she had not returned his call or he would definitely talk to her and get back to me this week. During a brief break at the November DA, he dropped the pretense saying that it might be better to resolve my corporal punishment cases before Randi spoke out.
Without time to argue the sudden switcheroo—the bogus, sideshow CP complaints had never been an issue—I insisted on a sit-down. He scheduled it for Monday, December 14,
And there would be no committee—just us.
What do you say that we expand our private meeting to include Jim and Chris,” I emailed him on December 10. “Since we're going to discuss Randy's (a) long promised and inexplicably (and ominously) delayed endorsement of my whistleblower bona fides re Cobble Hill and (b) criticism of Condon's incredible report, we should convene the original committee, no?”
”No need,” Mendel wrote. “I just want to talk to you one to one.“That's what I'm afraid of,” I replied. “You're going to tell me that Randi is reneging on her promise. That's something everyone who heard her promise should hear. Am I wrong?” Mendel did not answer the question. Instead on Sunday the 13th, he had a toothache and cancelled the meeting without further comment. That same night I wrote Randi a last-ditch email, the one in the title of this post, cataloguing my frustrations with her and her Unity crew--VP Casey, Staff Director LeRoy Barr, and from Brooklyn Borough Rep Howie Schoor, District Reps Charlie Friedman and Tony Sclafani, and Special Rep Arthur Solomon, all of whom were cc’ed. I did not delve into the motive behind Randi’s betrayal. Maybe it was connected to my series of recent feuds with the B-Team above. For example, I whacked Mulgrew and Barr pretty hard with Vichyite allusions on EdNotes Online for spoiling a Bill Thompson. endorsement at the Ocober DA. I confronted Barr at an Executive Committee meeting for refusing to lift a finger to help me reverse an OSI verdict that I sent “racist” XMAS cards to four colleagues at Cobble Hill in ’08. It’s a long, crazy tale. You need only know that (a) the illustration on the hand-made cards (my XMAS tradition as Chapter Leader) was a color copy of Barry Blitt’s witty New Yorker parody of the Obamas as the farmer and daughter in Grant Wood’s “American Gothic” and (b) the geniuses at OSI credited the complaint that the cards were “racial” because there was a pitchfork in the painting. I had solicited Barr’s help because he was the point man on a UFT SWAT team founded to fight for Chapter Leaders targeted by the DOE, Chapter Leaders like me. As they say, every brother’s not a brother.. Solomon, the nicest rep I’ve ever met, went rogue when he denied me a copy of his exculpatory interview notes with the OSI investigator on the Obama card case. Solomon claimed that the notes were his “property” and he would never give them up short of a 3020a hearing, even if they could help throw out the case before a hearing. According to Solomon’s boss, Borough Rep Schoor, it was UFT policy to keep rep notes away from clients, an act that is illegal for lawyers. When I asked Schoor for an explanation, he did not reply. I felt compelled to expose this secret policy on the blogs. I had a second round with Schoor regarding representation. The Chancellor’s Office of Equal Employment wanted to interview me on second “racist” complaint. Amazing but true, a black teacher reported me to OEO for using “Negro” in reference to a group of blacks sitting at a nearby table in the rubber room. But he forgot to mention that, according to two witnesses, black and white, he first asked me a question with “Negro” in it and I reflexively repeated his word in my answer. You should also know that (a) the teacher was reassigned himself for using the other n-word with students (in reclaimed fashion I have no doubt, but give me a break); (b) the OEO investigator, who happened to be black, never discussed “Negro” with me and concluded his substantiation with the immortal ruling tat M Nobile asserts that he was merely ‘repeating’ the comment is inc al”; and (c) the investigator refused to look at a scrapbook of race clippings by and about me in the black and white press indicating that the white guy who led the charge against Imus’s racist shtick on radio (PBS), television (The O’Reilly Factor), and Internet (TomPaine.com) was unlikely to slur blacks himself. Putting Schoor and the UFT to the test, I demanded a new kind of advocacy for my OEO interview in a December 1 email: I am requesting vigorous, even agitated DuBois-style representation, no more sitting like a potted plant, letting me do all the strategy and defense, and a promise of notes, you know, full, timely, reputation-saving representation of falsely accused member, the kind of union advocacy you'd expect in my place.” But Schoor declined. When I put the rep question to him from the microphone at the subsequent Executive Board meeting, Mendel shout from the podium, “Don’t answer that question, Howie.” Clearly, I had distressed the Unity hierarchy in Randi’s absence, but always for good cause and only after they had committed treasons against basic solidarity. And now I am completely blackballed. How can I be sure? The other day my stalwart NYSUT counsel Callagy left a voicemail saying that he was informed by an unnamed party not to have lunch with me and not to communicate with me unless I was formally charged. Sweet. So it was in end stage discontent with the UFT’s several infidelities that I wrote Randi the unreserved email below with a golden bridge of retreat that neither she nor her adherents have had sufficient character to cross. I prefer to hear from your lips rather than Michael’s that a` propos the Cobble Hill Regents cheating case you are reneging on your often repeated promise that, following the example of DOE Deputy Counsel Theresa Europe and former OSI Investigator Lou Scarcella, you would vouch for my credibility and challenge Condon’s based on my 140-page, UFT-vetted refutation of his 2007 report to Chancellor Klein, the report that covered up an audit showing tampering on fifty-one Social Studies tests in June 2003, the audit that I sent to the Chancellor, his General Counsel Michael Best and Ms. Europe, now Director of the Administrative Trials Unit, as well as to the Department of Investigation, to no avail last summer. The Cobble Hill affair is not the UFT’s finest hour. without blinking, Charlie Friedman and Tony Sclafani advised me to cover up the crime, even from you, in violation of city law. Second, Leo dismissed my irrefutable response to Condon without explanation and said the union would do nothing to undo the damage. I had to remind him of your and his previous pledge to refer the case to the City Council and Attorney General Cuomo for re-investigation.. But even then your joint letter to Education Committee Chair Robert Jackson lacked endorsement and contained embarrassing error and misspelling, all because Leo failed to send me his draft as agreed. Third, you stonewalled me for months. You said that people who read my rebuttal were not convinced, but you couldn’t recall their names. You said you'd read the rebuttal yourself during February break 2008. You never did. As I complained to the Executive Board, I went from the “brave” union hero of your whistleblower law campaign to a union zero in your eyes. Nobody who knew you could explain your indifference to my situation and Condon’s corruption. You said that you had no problem with him. Only after [Deep Throat briefed you on Condon’s history] and commended my bona fides did you drop your resistance and promise to go public in my favor ON THE STEPS OF CITY HALL! Suddenly, your past loyalty to Condon over your solidarity for me had a plausible rationale. In November 2008, during your first appearance at the Mendel Committee, you told Michael, Chris, Jim, and me the rest of the story. You owed the Godfather. You reached out to Condon to stop Klein’s swiftboat operation against you involving the leak of your unflattering, on the surface, DOE personnel file to the Village Voice. You said that you told Condon and his boss Rose Gill Hearn that you would blame Bloomberg if Klein did not desist. You said that Condon hated Klein and would protect the Mayor. You said that Condon told you how Klein could be squelched. And it happened. Naturally, you were grateful. Scarcella’s tales tipped you in the right direction … finally, and no thanks to my pleas for solidarity.Fourth, so far you have not kept last July’s promise to go public in the Daily News. I can’t get a straight answer from Michael. You have not shown the courtesy of an explanation for the delay. And the latest is a private meeting tomorrow with Michael (just postponed) who denied my request to bring along Jim and Chris. Even OSI allows me a witness.