Sunday, September 16, 2007

So Much For Accountability

Yesterday the NY Times reported that Mayor Moneybags Bloomberg tried to have city lawyers "debrief" firefighters involved in August 18th's deadly Deutsche Bank Building fire before the firefighters spoke to prosecutors in the district attorney's office. Prosecutors are concerned that Bloomberg and Fire Department officials are trying to cover-up malfeasance by city officials and/or limit the liability of the city in future lawsuits by having city lawyers scare city employees into silence.

In further Bloombergian cover-up news, today we learn from the NY Daily News that Mayor Moneybags and New York City Public Schools Chancellor Joel Klein have been hiding hundreds of complaints of abuse on city school buses:

The City Education Department hid 225 complaints of abuse aboard public school buses to keep the numbers down, a Daily News investigation found.

The hidden cases include some in which school investigators established that bus drivers or monitors beat children or covered up abuse aboard buses, documents show.

In one case, a driver used a school bus and his official uniform in a film playing himself as a New York City school bus driver who smokes marijuana, drinks beer and has sex - all while on duty.

In another hidden case, a driver and monitor admitted they'd covered up a razor attack on an 11-year-old boy.

In another, Department of Education records noted a driver had been suspended - but didn't say why. The new documents said the driver was operating a bus while drunk. DOE spokesman David Cantor said the documents were withheld due to an "oversight."

In a fourth case - perhaps the most disturbing - a school bus monitor witnessed a driver beat a 12-year-old special needs child on Dec. 20, 2005.


None of those cases was disclosed to The News, which requested the information under a Freedom of Information Law request. Last spring, the DOE insisted it had given The News all substantiated cases of physical and sexual abuse aboard buses in response to the FOIL request.

Now, officials say they have "discovered" 175 more cases. Officials also reclassified 50 more allegations of abuse aboard school buses in 2005 and last year that its investigators had termed "substantiated."

In some of the "unsubstantiated" cases, the department's investigators had determined there was ample evidence of wrongdoing and the department had imposed punishment, including decertifying bus monitors and drivers.

The revelations of the hidden cases comes after The News' series, "School Bus Disgrace," forced the department to admit the unit that investigates such abuse was in chaos.

The News found seven Education Department investigators were overwhelmed trying to probe 3,547 complaints of abuse on city school buses last year. The number of investigators remained flat, though the number of complaints shot up.

In previous reports, the Daily News has documented how the DOE has illegally "blacked out" public information on cases of physical and sexual abuse aboard city school buses.

The News says the DOE has admitted that at least 916 allegations that investigators had declared "unsubstantiated" were in reality never investigated because the DOE didn't have enough manpower.

When the Daily News asked for and received data from the DOE on abuse allegations on city school buses, they found "inconsistencies" in the data - namely the DOE kept changing the number of "substantiated" cases.

The News raised these "inconsistencies" with the DOE and that's when an additional 140 pages of records were turned over to the newspaper.

The DOE claims the reason why the records weren't first turned over to the Daily News was because "they were lost due to a mix-up."

Uh, huh.

Or the Department of Education was keeping two sets of books - one "real" set and one set that could be made public and be given to the news media.

Let's be honest here - this mayor and this chancellor are very good at maintaining and releasing statistics and records when the stats and the records make themselves and the city look good.

But when it comes to honestly complying with the law and releasing all public records related to the school system - even if those records show serious deficiencies in how the DOE and the city has run parts of the school system - then Bloomberg and Klein aren't so good.

On the flip side, Mayor Moneybags is pretty good at cover-ups and limiting scandal damage. Right now he's engaged in at least two cover-ups (school bus allegations, Deutsche Bank Building fire), yet he's managed to keep himself and his top deputies at the DOE and the FDNY from serious harm.

You can imagine how Bloomberg and Klein would react publicly if a principal or a teacher in a NY city school knew that "substantiated" cases of abuse had occurred, but the officials in charge did nothing about them.

Yet here are Mayor Moneybags and Chancellor Klein, big accountability guys that they are, helping to hide hundreds of cases of abuse on city school buses so that they aren't embarrassed publicly by the number of incidents.

I guess accountability is only for teachers and principals.
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