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April 30, 2024

Appeal to the Commissioner of Education dismissed for lack of proper service

Petitioners appealed a Board of Education's determination that their child, a high school student, was "not entitled to a medical exemption" from the immunization requirements of Public Health Law §2164.*  The appeal also named the high school principal and a school nurse as “Individual Respondents”.  The Commissioner dismissed Petitioners' appeals "for improper service."

The Commissioner's decision notes that 8 NYCRR 275.8 [a] of the Regulations of the Commissioner of Education requires that such petitions be personally served upon each named respondent.  Further, if a school district is named as a respondent, service upon the school district is to be made personally by delivering a copy of the petition to the district clerk, to any trustee or any member of the board of education, to the superintendent of schools, or to a person in the office of the superintendent who has been designated by the board of education to accept service of an appeal to the Commissioner of Education.

Although Petitioners’ affidavits of service indicated that they had served the Individual Respondents, the Individual Respondents denied this allegation, stating that they had received the petitions "from district employees who are not authorized to accept service on their behalf."  

Citing Appeal of Barrientos, 58 Ed Dept Rep, Decision of the Commissioner No. 17,450 and other Decisions of the Commissioner of Education and noting that Petitioners "did not submit a reply or otherwise respond" to the Individual Respondents’ claims of improper service, the Commissioner opined that "on this record" she could not conclude that Petitioners served a copy of the petition on any of the named Individual Respondents as required by §275.8 (a) of the Commissioner’s regulations and dismissed their appeals.

* Public Health Law §2164 address immunization against poliomyelitis, mumps, measles, diphtheria, rubella, varicella, Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib), pertussis, tetanus, pneumococcal disease, meningococcal disease, and hepatitis B.

Click HERE to access the Commissioner's decision posted on the Internet. 

 

April 29, 2024

Former New York University finance director pays over $660,000 in restitution for role in multi-million dollar fraud

On April 26, 2024, State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli and Manhattan District Attorney Alvin L. Bragg Jr. announced that Cindy Tappe, former director of finance and administration at New York University, paid full restitution of $663,209 after pleading guilty to grand larceny for orchestrating a $3.5 million, 6-year fraud relating to two NYU programs, announced today.

“Cindy Tappe executed a scheme to support her lavish lifestyle at the expense of children with special needs and young English Language learners. She is now a convicted felon and has paid back the money she stole,” DiNapoli said. “I thank District Attorney Bragg for his partnership in the investigation and in bringing her to justice.”

“Cindy Tappe has now been sentenced for diverting funds that were intended to benefit students for her own personal gain. Her fraudulent actions not only threatened to affect the quality of education for students with disabilities and multilingual students but denied our city’s minority- and women-owned business enterprises a chance to fairly compete for funding,” Bragg said. “I thank the New York State Comptroller’s Office for its partnership as we continue to root out fraud in Manhattan. Those who take advantage of our students and businesses will be held accountable.”

Tappe, 59, used her position as the director of finance and administration for NYU’s Metropolitan Center for Research on Equity and Transformation of Schools (the “Metro Center”) to divert approximately $3.5 million intended for minority- and women-owned businesses. She ultimately routed $3.3 million to bank accounts held by two shell companies she created by using subcontractors to serve as pass throughs. None of the subcontractors performed work on the contracts. Instead, they took between 3% and 6% of the invoice amounts as “overhead,” and sent the remainder of $3.352 million to Tappe’s fictitious shell companies.

Tappe used some of the funds for NYU payments and employee reimbursements but kept more than $660,000 to pay for personal expenses, including renovations to her home and an $80,000 swimming pool.

Tappe, of Westport, Conn., pleaded guilty to one count of grand larceny. She was sentenced to serve five years’ probation and paid full restitution in the amount of $663,209.07 at the time of sentencing. The subcontractors also repaid $150,000.

Since taking office in 2007, DiNapoli has committed to fighting public corruption and encourages the public to help fight fraud and abuse. New Yorkers can report allegations of fraud involving taxpayer money by calling the toll-free Fraud Hotline at 1-888-672-4555, by filing a complaint online at https://www.osc.state.ny.us/investigations, or by mailing a complaint to: Office of the State Comptroller, Division of Investigations, 8th Floor, 110 State St., Albany, NY 12236.

 

April 27, 2024

Selected links to items focusing on government operations posted on the Internet during the week ending April 26, 2024

A Simple Way to Make the Suicide Hotline More Effective The 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline provides comprehensive support for Americans who face acute mental health challenges. Congress is considering ways to tailor services more strategically. READ MORE

 

AI as a Stress Test for Government Data The rise of generative artificial intelligence is a stress test for data governance and management. And an opportunity for data stewards to shine. READ MORE

 

AI Places New Demands on Government-Held Data, But It Is Still the Data That Counts The rise of generative artificial intelligence is a stress test for data governance and management, and an opportunity for data stewards to shine. READ MORE

 

AI-Infused Software Looks to Quicken Police Report Writing A new tool from public safety tech supplier Axon can automatically transcribe audio from the company’s body cameras. Arriving as law enforcement nationwide confronts a hiring crisis, it could free up officers for other duties. READ MORE

 

Are We Ready for a Cyber Attack on Food and Farming? Authorities are working to prepare for one by, for the first time, conducting a massive federal tabletop exercise focused on food and agriculture cybersecurity resilience. READ MORE

 

AVs May Not Have Taken Over, but Their Tech Is Here to Stay Urban technologists at the recent 2024 Bipartisan Tech Policy Conference discussed the various ways emerging tech like autonomous vehicles have evolved. READ MORE

 

Best Practices For Strengthening Mobility and Connectivity With A Public-private Approach For agencies focused on service delivery, getting the right connectivity approach in place is essential to meet current and future demands of public service. LEARN MORE

 

Colorado Tech Office Plucks New COO from Private Sector The Colorado Governor’s Office of Information Technology on Monday announced the appointment of Sridevi Ramaswamy as chief operations officer. She has more than two decades’ private-sector experience and this is her first government role. READ MORE

 

Congress Asks How to Prevent Another Change Healthcare Crisis After a ransomware attack recently caused major issues for medical providers as well as their patients, lawmakers are looking for policy moves that can protect against a repeat. READ MORE

 

Congressional Framework Would Address Extreme AI Risks A bipartisan group of U.S. senators has introduced a congressional framework, in a letter to Senate artificial intelligence working group leaders, that would establish federal oversight on extreme risks related to AI. READ MORE

 

Cyber Attack Shutters New York State Bill Office As suspected Wednesday, bad actors are to blame for taking computers in the state’s Bill Drafting Commission offline. The incident is further delaying production of the already-late state budget. READ MORE

 

Double-Parked? Hayden AI’s New Platform Will Find You The San Francisco company has released a new tool aimed at helping make streets safer for bicyclists and buses. It relies on visual artificial intelligence and cameras mounted on buses. READ MORE

 

DWI Arrestees: Unexpected Partners in Public Safety Innovation With driving while intoxicated arrests rising, Minnesota is turning to tech for solutions. The state is piloting cutting-edge roadside drug testing devices with unexpected participants: people arrested for DWI. READ MORE

 

Feds Help Shreveport, La., and Las Vegas Modernize Transit Combined, the cities received nearly $1.5 million in grants through a U.S. Department of Transportation program. They will use it to maintain and plan the expansion of zero-emissions vehicles, and to enhance pedestrian safety. READ MORE

 

Florida Ethics Commission Waives Fine for Its Own Member Ethics Commissioner Freddie Figgers didn’t submit his 2021 financial disclosure statement until the day after Gov. Ron DeSantis appointed him to the Ethics Commission. The commission voted 4-1 to waive the $1,500 fine. READ MORE

 

Four Stages of Communications for a Successful Government Customer Experience This guide outlines four critical communication stages that best enable government to communicate with customers and improve outreach, enrollment and engagement around public services. DOWNLOAD

 

From Legacy to Leading Edge: Butte County's Modernization Journey This case study details how Butte County, California, modernized its 35-year-old legacy system for payroll, timekeeping, accounting, and benefits management. DOWNLOAD

 

Georgia Police Use Artificial Intelligence to Solve Cases The Warner Robins Police Department is using software to aggregate information that could help it close criminal cases. It is a help to the department, which does not have a cyber crime division. READ MORE

 

Hispanics Make Up Nearly Half the Nation’s Uninsured A variety of factors make Latinos less likely to have health insurance, including language barriers, types of occupations and immigration status. Coverage problems extend well beyond undocumented individuals. READ MORE

 

How a Modular Business Solutions Strategy Addresses Workforce Gaps State and local governments face ongoing workforce challenges, including budget constraints and difficulty competing with the private sector. Often, antiquated technology and outdated processes make it even harder to attract and retain new employees. READ MORE

 

How California Governor’s Budget Shortfall Action Impacts IT Gov. Gavin Newsom signed legislation Monday on an early action budget agreement among legislative leaders that will cut the shortfall by about $17.3 billion — and return millions for tech to the general fund. READ MORE

 

How Procurement Can Support IT Sustainability Energy consumption has become an important concern for both environmental impact and cost controls as governments store more data, use more applications and create more digital services. DOWNLOAD

 

How to Tackle Cyber Crime Ecosystems, Teen Extortionists At an event held by the Institute for Security and Technology, experts discussed why simply arresting ransomware developers isn’t enough to effectively combat this cybersecurity problem. READ MORE

 

How Will the Advent of GenAI Impact State IT Workforces? A new report from NASCIO explores the impact that generative artificial intelligence will have on state government tech employees, as states move independently with regulation and implementation. READ MORE

 

Insights for Faster Incident Response Transit agencies are flooded with real-time data from social media feeds, sensor alerts and more. Event detection platforms help them find the most relevant information and take action. DOWNLOAD

 

Keeping Food Scraps Out of Landfills Is a Bigger Problem Than You Think Organic waste in landfills is a major source of methane emissions. Orange County, Calif., is making progress in diverting it. READ MORE

 

Legislation Would Allow NYC to Set Its Own Speed Limits Currently, the state controls the local speed limits but a proposal folded into the state budget would change that. The current speed limit in New York City was set in 2014, the first citywide reduction in a half-century. READ MORE

 

Millions Could Soon Lose Internet Access if Program Expires The Affordable Connectivity Program, which was created after the pandemic forced many Americans to turn to the Internet to connect with work and school, has 23 million enrollees nationwide. READ MORE

 

New Mexico to Consider Sanctuary City Ban in Special Session Though Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has said she wants to keep the July special session narrowly focused on public safety, a group of Republican state senators has proposed packages that aim to secure a porous border. READ MORE

 

Opinion: Massachusetts Has a Groundbreaking Cybersecurity Network CyberTrust Massachusetts is launching new cyber assessment and monitoring services, which will give the state's cities and towns access to new capabilities to help reverse the trend of escalating cyber attacks. READ MORE

 

Oregon Obscures Effectiveness of Paid Leave Program A public dashboard shows only some of the numbers pertaining to the state’s family and medical leave program that launched in September, furthering distrust in a system that has already faced a variety of issues. READ MORE

 

Overflowing Water Tank Linked to Russian Cyber Attack A report released Wednesday connects a Texas cyber attack to hacker groups with Russian government ties, per CNN. The incident, in January, caused no injuries and did not affect drinking water. READ MORE

 

Philly’s Plan to End Open-Air Drug Market Part of Larger Crime Crackdown Earlier this month, Mayor Cherelle Parker announced her administration’s plan to end the Kensington neighborhood’s open-air drug markets by arresting people for low-level offenses that the city hadn’t targeted in years. READ MORE

 

Quick Survey on AI What information about generative AI would be most helpful to you? Please take our 5-minute survey and shape content and data from the Center for Public Sector AI. Take Survey Now

 

Red States Push Back Against Income Payments to Residents Republicans in at least six states are looking to ban basic income programs as Democrats seek to expand the no-strings-attached payments. Some state lawmakers are seeking to ban local communities from enacting similar programs. READ MORE

 

Review: ‘Artificial Intelligence — A Primer for State and Local Governments’ A new book by Alan Shark offers an excellent guide and an AI road map for state and local governments. He answers basic questions that public-sector leaders are asking in 2024. READ MORE

 

Shouldn’t Access to Healthy Food Be Considered a Human Right? It’s a problem in urban and rural areas alike, but the greatest impact is in cities where it amounts to “food apartheid.” Our best chance of solving it is to get our communities engaged in creating solutions. READ MORE

 

St. Paul Revisits Snow Emergencies After Two Extreme Winters This year’s relatively snowless winter followed the record-setting season last year, when 93 inches of snow fell onto the city. The city budgets based on average snowfall, but the average is changing, forcing officials to revisit plans. READ MORE

 

Starting Smart with Generative AI Generative AI can transform government by enhancing operational efficiency and the constituent experience. READ MORE

 

State Government Guide to Managing Grants To ensure your state is best managing grant dollars received and allocated, check out this guide for some best practices that address the most common challenges states face. DOWNLOAD

 

States Consider Mandating AI Labels for Political Ads After more than 20,000 voters in New Hampshire received a deepfake phone call asking them to skip the state’s January primary, at least 39 states are considering measures to ensure transparency of artificial intelligence used in political ads. READ MORE

 

Staying Agile in the Changing World of Government Social Media At the 2024 Government Social Media Conference, officials shared their insight on how to operate in the changing landscape of social media. They also discussed what to expect as AI comes onto the scene. READ MORE

 

The Key to Attracting Public Workers? Pay, Not Pensions. Research shows that traditional defined-benefit retirement plans aren’t a path to improved recruitment or retention. When it comes to younger workers in particular, policymakers need to accept the new reality. READ MORE

 

The Nonexistent Link Between Mailed Ballots and Voter Fraud Election deniers may not believe it, but the most extensive national study, covering 20 years of data, showed that illegal voting is exceptionally rare. READ MORE

 

The Troubling Proliferation of Universal Basic Income Programs A lot of communities are experimenting with this costly, ineffective approach to fighting poverty that disincentivizes work. Iowa lawmakers are right to ban localities from creating guaranteed income programs. READ MORE

 

Three State Leaders Offer AI Governance Strategies Artificial intelligence and data leaders from Georgia, Maryland and Vermont shared their perspectives on successful AI governance in a GOVChats panel discussion. The environment, they said, is still in development. READ MORE

 

Tips for Overcoming IT Resource Drain in the Public Sector Here are five things you can do to help eliminate IT resource drain within your organization and provide improved IT service to employees and citizens. READ MORE

 

Tribal Communities Await Federal Cybersecurity Grants The federal government is slated to distribute $18.2 million of Tribal Cybersecurity Grant Program funds as soon as the spring, and experts say the funds will help address important needs. READ MORE

 

Two New Justices Make Minnesota Supreme Court Majority Women Gov. Tim Walz appointed Theodora Gaïtas and Sarah Hennesy to the state’s highest court on Monday. When Gaïtas and Hennesy join the court, Walz will have selected four of the seven justices. READ MORE

 

What’s New in Digital Equity: NTIA Accepts Digital Equity Plans for All 50 States Plus, new legislation aims to increase digital skills training opportunities, two Ohio initiatives aim to increase digital equity, a new grant program for digital services was announced in Colorado, and more. READ MORE

 

With the ACP Winding Down, Advocates Tout Its Value April is the last month of full funding for the federal Affordable Connectivity Program, which helps subsidize monthly Internet service for low-income households. Advocates hope it will be reauthorized. READ MORE

 

April 26, 2024

New York State Courts hold Plaintiff's complaints barred by collateral estoppel having earlier commenced similar actions in federal court alleging violations of various federal, New York State, and New York City statutes

In the words of the New York State Court of Appeals, "Plaintiff was subjected to offensive and demeaning conduct by her colleagues and sued them and her employer in federal court alleging violations of various federal, New York State, and New York City statutes, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. 

"The parties engaged in the full discovery process, including depositions and document production, and defendants moved for summary judgment. 

"A federal judge made detailed factual findings and applied those findings to defendants' federal claims, ultimately granting defendants' summary judgment motions, and the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed. 

"Plaintiff brought a nearly identical suit in Supreme Court, raising claims over which the federal district court declined to exercise supplemental jurisdiction.

"Supreme Court dismissed plaintiff's complaint as barred by collateral estoppel and for failing to state a claim, the Appellate Division agreed".

The Court of Appeals affirmed the lower courts' rulings, Justice Rivera dissenting.

Click HERE to access the Court of Appeals' majority and the dissenting opinions in the State actions posted on the Internet.

OATH Administrative Law Judge recommends the dismissal of a deputy sheriff who stole evidence from a storage container

New York City Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings Administrative Law Judge [ALJ] Michael D. Turilli recommended the termination of employment of a deputy sheriff [Deputy] he found had stolen contraband from an evidence storage container.

Judge Turilli determined that on two occasions Deputy was seen on a surveillance video tape exiting the evidence storage container with unidentified objects concealed under his clothing and taking the objects to his car. The ALJ rejected Deputy’s explanation that he had been carrying a mini-tablet and a phone rather than contraband, finding this testimony inconsistent with the video evidence in consideration of the shape of the objects and the manner in which Deputy was carrying them.

Further, the ALJ found that Deputy had made efforts to conceal the objects from video surveillance, which would have been unnecessary if he was removing work-related equipment and not contraband.

ALJ Turilli, however, recommended dismissal of specifications filed against Deputy for stealing or facilitating the theft of contraband on ten other occasions, ruling Employer failed to prove those charges by a preponderance of credible evidence.  

Recommending the Employer terminate Deputy's employment, the ALJ opined that Deputy’s lack of disciplinary history did not outweigh "the egregiousness of the misconduct and his demonstrated lack of integrity".

Click HERE to access Judge Turilli's findings and recommendation posted on the Internet.

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A Reasonable Disciplinary Penalty Under the Circumstances - an e-book focusing on determining an appropriate disciplinary penalty to be imposed on an employee in the public service of the State of New York and its political subdivisions in instances where the employee has been found guilty of misconduct or incompetence. For more information and access to a free excerpt of the material presented in this e-book, click here: http://booklocker.com/books/7401.html.

 

April 25, 2024

New York State's Comptroller releases audits

On April 24, 2024 New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli announced the following local government and school audits were issued.

Click on the text highlighted in color to access the complete audit report posted on the Internet.

 

Town of Lincoln – Disbursements (Madison County) 

The board and former supervisor did not ensure that disbursements were adequately supported and properly approved. The former supervisor received 13 check payments, totaling $5,142, that were not supported. Also, three of these payments totaling $2,605 were not audited and approved by the board. Claims totaling $109,158 were improperly paid prior to board audit, and claims totaling $533,518 were improperly audited and approved by the former supervisor rather than the board. In addition, 13 claims, totaling $23,116, did not contain sufficient supporting documentation. Lastly, the former bookkeepers did not maintain time records to support the hours for which they were paid, and one bookkeeper received $1,751 in additional pay with no evidence of approval.

 

Town of Lincoln – Town Clerk (Madison County)

 The former clerk did not properly account for, deposit, report or remit collections. As of April 13, 2022, the former clerk could not account for cash totaling $3,869. The former clerk also did not deposit $4,038 in cash collections recorded from Jan. 1, 2018 through April 13, 2022, or maintain complete records for all cash collected. Town officials found $622 in cash in her office with no supporting records showing the source of the funds. She also did not record 44 checks totaling $4,320 in the accounting system, and improperly voided other receipts totaling $769. These unrecorded receipts and voids enabled the former clerk to conceal cash collections that were recorded but not deposited. In addition, the board did not perform an annual audit of the former clerk’s records, as required. In July 2023, the former clerk was arrested on charges of petit larceny for stealing nearly $4,000 from the town. In February 2024, she pleaded guilty to the theft, paid restitution of $3,869 and received a one-year conditional discharge.

 

Raquette Lake Union Free School District – Business Office Operations (Hamilton County)

 The board and district officials did not provide effective oversight of the business office operations. Specifically, the board did not ensure the required 2021-22 annual financial report was filed or obtain adequate written agreements with a third party providing accounting and reporting services that specified the roles and responsibilities of the district and the third-party provider. The board also did not implement controls to safeguard the treasurer's signature on disbursement checks or monitor the third-party online access to the district’s bank accounts.

 

Village of Suffern – Budget Review (Rockland County)

Based on the results of the review, auditors found that the significant revenue and expenditure projections in the 2024-25 proposed budget are reasonable. They also found that the village’s tentative budget includes a tax levy of $12,533,658, which is within the limit established by law.

###

April 24, 2024

An inference of animus found "sufficiently specific" to bar granting the Employer's motion to dismiss Plaintiffs' claims

The Appellate Division unanimously reversed a New York State Supreme Court's ruling granting the City of New York's motion to [1] dismiss racial discrimination claims alleged by Plaintiffs pursuant to the New York State and City Human Rights Laws and [2] the hostile work environment claim Plaintiffs alleged pursuant to the New York City Human Rights Law which the Plaintiffs had asserted against the City of New York and a named defendant.

Citing Harrington v City of New York, 157 AD3d 582 and Reichman v City of New York, 179 AD3d 1115, the Appellate Division opined that Plaintiffs' employment discrimination and hostile work environment claim alleged pursuant the New York City Human Rights Law were improperly dismissed by Supreme Court for failure to sufficiently allege discriminatory animus.

Noting "the comments of the now-dismissed defendants are not properly considered, and the sole remaining individual [named] defendant is not alleged to have made any even arguably discriminatory statements, [Plaintiffs] raised an inference of animus through their allegations of differential treatment of similarly situated white officers in terms of assignments, evaluations, and placement on performance monitoring".

In the words of the court, "Plaintiffs sufficiently alleged that the white officers were similarly situated." In addition, said the Appellate Division, "[the] allegations of differential treatment were also sufficiently specific and factual in nature."

Click HERE to access the Appellate Division decision posted on the Internet.

 

April 23, 2024

Substantial evidence held to support finding the accused guilty of certain disciplinary charges filed against him

A New York City police officer [Petitioner] was found guilty of four of the five disciplinary charges filed against him by the New York City Police Department [Employer] which included allegations that Petitioner [1] "engaged in a physical altercation with his estranged wife; [2] "failed to request permission before leaving his residence while on sick report, and [3] "violated a protective order on multiple occasions." 

Terminated from his position, Petitioner appealed, claiming violations of his right to due process.

The Appellate Division held that Petitioner's claims were "unavailing", finding that Petitioner received advance notice of the charges, was provided a full evidentiary hearing, and he was represented by counsel at the hearing. 

The court said contrary to Petitioner's arguments, Employer appears "to have submitted the administrative record, including a certified transcript of the hearing," in its answer. Further, the Appellate Division opined, "Petitioner's contentions regarding his sealed arrest records are unavailing as the administrative decision reflects that the Hearing Officer based his conclusions on the witnesses' testimony and exhibits entered into evidence by stipulation of the parties".

The Appellate Division unanimously confirmed the Employer's terminating Petitioner from his position pointing out that substantial evidence supported the Employer finding that Petitioner was guilty of four of the five charges served upon him.

Noting that the Hearing Officer was entitled to credit the testimony of Petitioner's estranged wife that Petitioner "failed to identify himself as a uniformed member of the service during a ... domestic incident" over the Petitioner's testimony concerning the event as Petitioner's testimony was inconsistent with the responding police officer's body camera footage and the responding police officer's testimony that Petitioner did not so identify himself.

As to the penalty imposed, dismissal from his employment with the New York City police department, the Appellate Division opined that "the penalty of dismissal is not disproportionate to the seriousness of the multiple violations involved", citing Matter of Kelly v Safir, 96 NY2d 32.

Click HERE to access the opinion of the Appellate Division posted on the Internet.

_______ 

A Reasonable Disciplinary Penalty Under the Circumstances - an e-book focusing on determining an appropriate disciplinary penalty to be imposed on an employee in the public service of the State of New York and its political subdivisions in instances where the employee has been found guilty of misconduct or incompetence. For more information and access to a free excerpt of the material presented in this e-book, click here: http://booklocker.com/books/7401.html

 

 

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