Complaints of corruption, crime and other wrongdoing at the Department of Education piled up at a record pace last year, but as usual most were thrown out by city investigators.
The city office that investigates the department, the Office of Special Investigations, received 4335 complaints in 2013, the most ever in 23 years of existence. Most were tossed out, while nearly 800 were investigated, about the same as 2012 totals, according SCI’s year-end statistical report released today.
Just under 300 cases were substantiated, meaning that investigators found enough evidence to support an original allegation. The office, which operates independent from the education department, is headed by former police commissioner Richard Condon.
Condon’s office sent out press releases with details about just eight of those cases. The cases are kept private, barring a freedom of information request, and forwarded to the department’s chancellor, who may then decide what to do about people involved. OSI sometimes recommends termination; in instances where a law is broken, the case is handled by law enforcement agencies.
Condon’s office probes alleged violations of law and department regulations, from accusations of sexual misconduct to concerns about fraud and embezzlement, to allegations of cheating on tests. The Department of Education also has an internal investigative unit, the Office of Special Investigations.
Publicly-released cases from 2013 revealed a range of indiscretions. One staffer was fired for use her schools’ tax-exempt privilege on $37 worth of personal purchases. Several investigations substantiated instances of serious sexual misconduct. Another could not substantiate dozens of serious accusations against teacher-blogger Francesco Portelos, but did suggest that he was conducting personal business at his Staten Island school on the side. The department is currently in the process of trying to fire him.