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The UFT Problem: What To Do With Mike Mulgrew?

Mike Mulgrew: Come Clean With the Allegations of Tampering With An Investigation, Or Resign

I made this story happen by giving reporters the information that I had because I dont believe in deceit. As you will see in the article posted on my website early this morning, I was given the information about the coverup in March 2010 from Brooklyn rubber roomer John Haggerty. He told me to look into it. When a friend asked Norm Scott about it a couple of months ago, Norm said he knew nothing about it. Why he would not post it before now, if indeed he had the information, I dont know. But what I do know is, in 2005 the Principal of William Grady HS sued Mike Mulgrew, Ellie Engler and Newsday, and the case was settled. People I spoke to about this over the past year have told me that there was never any investigation of the allegations involving Mulgrew and Camacho-Mendez, but there were other violations of rules and law with the students that were also not investigated. This needs to happen.

When Randi Weingarten moved Mike and Emma to the UFT, what did she know, and how was she involved in keeping an investigation from happening? It seems to me that more and more teachers charged with 3020-a are getting a specification with words to the effect of “tampering with an investigation”, thus we need to know if this applies to Mike Mulgrew, Emelina Camacho-Mendez, Randi Weingarten and the UFT/Unity Caucus. We dont need to know that Ms. Camacho-Mendez is now divorced/separated from her husband and Mike is living with another woman, but still carrying on with Camacho-Mendez, no one should care about this. What we should care about are secret deals and disparate treatment, politicians giving Mike Mulgrew rights that UFT members are denied and then terminated for relying on.

Emelina Comacho-Mendez
Last week a new entry on the UFT website intrigued me, the Parent Fact Sheet on Special Education Reform. Evidently if a parent has a complaint about their child(ren)’s Individualized Education Plan (IEP), they should call the UFT Special Education liaison, and these people with fix the problem. I called the number listed on the webpage, and got, of all people, Betsy, who sits at my old desk on the 16th floor. We spoke for a while, and when I asked how the UFT can fix a problem in a child’s IEP without the parent going to an impartial Hearing, Betsy told me that she would ask someone to call me back. That someone was Emelina Camacho-Mendez, who did not answer my questions. She told me that she was the liaison to the Department for all special needs children and their parents. Huh? The United Federation of Teachers and Parents? Leonie Haimson and Mona Davids channel Unity – what do you know about this?

UFT members realize now, I think, that there is something very wrong in New York City with UFT leaders as far as supporting and complying with the Collective Bargaining Agreement and other contractual rules. The grievance procedure stinks, and all that is left is payment of money to the people who prosecute the claims and who claim to represent members. Its a business. So is the 3020-a arbitration.

 My point is this: I do not care who Mike Mulgrew has sex with, but if he covered up this, and other stuff while at Grady High School, he needs to be held accountable to all the UFT members who have seen their lives destroyed because of false claims against them and/or “tampering with an investigation”.

If Mike Mulgrew made a secret deal to get away with whatever he did while at Grady in order to be President of the UFT, he needs to resign. Pronto. Workplace rights are not bargaining chips or for sale.

UFT Sex Scandal Rocks New York City by Betsy Combier

Michael Mulgrew, President of the United Federation of Teachers, and currently being attacked by UFT members fed up with his “do nothing” approach to the rubber rooms continuing and the denial of rights at grievance hearings, etc., are now confronted with the cover up of Mike’s alleged affair with a married teacher from his old school, William Grady HS, Emelina Camacho-Mendez. Some say there is more, including special education fraud at the school while Mulgrew was there. Both Mulgrew and his girlfriend moved suddenly to the UFT and now hold positions of power there, he as President and she, as the liaison to the Department of Education for special education. I have their personnel files.

Mike Mulgrew

Two years ago John Haggerty, a teacher who was removed from his job at a Brooklyn public school and forced to sit at the worst of 8 rubber rooms (Park Place, Brooklyn), told me that I should look into when and why Mike Mulgrew was removed from his position at William Grady High School in Brooklyn in 2004 or 2005.

When I asked John about this he told me that Mike Mulgrew was found by staff, he believed it to be Donald Herb, the Custodian, having sexual relations with a teacher who is married to someone else. Her name is Emelina Camacho-Mendez. He told me that I could speak with a few people, and he gave me some names. He was outraged that Mike could “get away with this” without any investigation. This was, he said, a “UFT Cover-up” of the highest order.

One of the people he told me to speak with was “Debbie”, at the other Brooklyn rubber room, 25 Chapel Street, who was a teacher at Grady. I did not remember meeting Debbie on my weekly visit to Chapel Street, because she was there only for a few weeks, not months or years, as everyone else (read the story about Steve Ostrin, accused of sexual harassment, there was no investigation, but he sat in the rubber room for almost 7 years, then was given a 6-month suspension without any evidence, and no help from the UFT). 

At my next visit I found Debbie, and sat with her a while. She kept saying over and over again that she had Mike Mulgrew on “speed dial” and she was not going to be sitting in the rubber room very long, because Mike knew that she “had stuff” on him, and he would either get her put back in her job or some other position soon, or she would tell his story to anyone and everyone. A few days later she was magically back in her teaching position.

Then I found out from John that he had leukemia. As he was getting more and more ill, I spent time with him at his house near to Brooklyn College. The last time I saw him, he told me again that he wanted me to look into the Mike Mulgrew affair because this was not fair to all the UFT members who relied on him for their jobs, and he was doing nothing to help anyone while he, Mulgrew, got away scot free.

After John died, the rubber rooms were “closed” (the April 15, 2010 agreement only scattered the imprisoned members), and the UFT – Mike Mulgrew, Ellie Engler, Leroy Barr – decided to get rid of me. So, on July 7, 2010, I was called by Angela Berry, the UFT staff Directors’ secretary, to Ellie Engler’s office. Engler and David Hickey were sitting there. I wondered if she was going to ask me if I wanted a drink from her liquor drawer in her desk. She didnt, this time (I dont drink the hard stuff, anyway, altho’ I dont turn down a glass of wine). She told me that I had done a great job for all members, and the UFT was very grateful for my wonderful advocacy, but as there were no more rubber rooms, they did not need me anymore. There were no members who needed help.

I said, ok, I guess you will give me two weeks? She said yes. 

I loved my job as a staff representative at the UFT, partially because I could see the pained faces of Leroy Barr, John Settle, and many others when I asked them – no, begged them – to pick up the telephone once in a while so that a member could be helped. All my efforts to get anyone at 52 Broadway to assist a member fell on deaf ears, so this was a problem. Another problem was that I was able to see actions and read emails that showed disdain for the very members that the UFT was supposed to support, like those who were parked in the “Rubber Rooms”, and people I was hired to help. 

Anyway, about two years ago I mentioned to a reporter of a major newspaper that I had heard this stuff cited above, about Mike Mulgrew, and we got the personnel files of both Mike and Emelina, asking for the information separately. The reporter got the information within a week or two, and I was refused for more than a year. Joe Baranello doesn’t seem to believe that this kind of disparate treatment is wrong, so I will be addressing this soon.

Here is the information I received from the DOE after I filed Freedom of Information (FOIL) requests (broken down into sections because my scanner would not scan in all pages at once):
Michael Mulgrew
Personnel file1
Personnel file2
Personnel file3
Personnel file4
Personnel file5

Emelina Comacho-Mendez
FOIL papers1
FOIL papers2
FOIL papers3
FOIL papers4

About a month ago I saw Joy Hochstadt at 51 Chambers Street, serving Theresa Europe some legal documents. I asked her whether she knew anything about the Mulgrew/Mendez affair. ThenAttorney Joy Hochstadt filed her federal lawsuit in the Eastern District, and now the allegations are public property. I believe that as the UFT keeps paying people for political reasons, like David Hickey, Burton Sacks and Ron Isaac, members should know what is going on with their UFT dues. I will gladly tell all that I know, including the channeling of political support and money to parent activists such as Leonie Haimson and Mona Davids. 

So, what’s the truth, Mike? Why did the Principal of Grady sue you and Ellie Engler in 2005? What was the settlement? The public does need to know.

And why are you on the payroll of the DOE through 2010?

Did you hide your affair and other actions at William Grady, then decide you would not help members put into the same situation? If so, perhaps you should resign.

UFT ‘sex coverup’
Union chief caught in act at school: lawsuit

By SUSAN EDELMAN, NY POST, Last Updated: 12:19 AM, May 20, 2012


UFT President Mike Mulgrew was caught “in flagrante delicto” with a guidance counselor at William Grady HS, where he taught before becoming the union’s boss, a bombshell lawsuit charges.

The accusation that Mulgrew was seen having sex with a co-worker in a woodshop at the vocational school, and that it was hushed up, comes in a rambling 73-page suit filed in Brooklyn federal court last week by Andrew Ostrowsky, a math teacher at Frank Sinatra HS of the Arts in Manhattan.

Ostrowsky, 35, names Mayor Bloomberg, Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott, Mulgrew and the UFT, claiming the teachers union conspired with school officials to quash the scandal. It accuses the city of using the favor to “extort” labor concessions.

The suit claims that a custodian found Mulgrew and Emma Camacho-Mendez together at the Brooklyn school, and that the custodian and principal were “sworn to secrecy and denial.”

It charges the pair were shielded by then-UFT President Randi Weingarten to avoid embarrassment to the union leadership.

“Mulgrew was embroiled in a meretricious scandal for which anyone else would have been fired, ending his career as an educator,” the suit claims.

Mulgrew’s spokesman, Dick Riley, gave a curt response: “This lawsuit is a catalog of absurd, false charges which we expect the court to dismiss.”

Camacho-Mendez, now a UFT official, said, “I have no comment on that. It’s the first I’ve heard of such an allegation. I have nothing to say to you.”

The lawyer who filed the suit, Joy Hochstadt, told The Post she is seeking evidence of the alleged tryst.

“Everyone has only hearsay knowledge, but almost everyone in the school talked about it,” the suit says.

Several former staffers at Grady HS have told The Post they believed Mulgrew and Camacho-Mendez, who is married, were romantically involved, and there were rumors of an encounter on a drafting table at the time.

“The sex thing, it’s between them and nobody’s business,” one said. “The thing that upset me is the patronage job to Mendez — rewarding her with a high-paying job with my union dues.”

In 2005, soon after the alleged incident, Mulgrew became UFT vice president for career and technical high schools. Around the same time, Camacho-Mendez transferred to the HS of Telecommunication Arts and Technology in Brooklyn, but got a part-time job in Mulgrew’s union office.

She was later given the full-time position of UFT liaison for special education. She gets two paychecks — $22,000 in UFT compensation on top of her $85,000 city salary, although she’s no longer a guidance counselor. In 2010, Mulgrew presented Camacho-Mendez with a UFT award.

“No one ever heard of this woman until Mulgrew brought her on board,” said a longtime UFT rep. “She had no union credentials.”

Mulgrew was tapped to finish Weingarten’s term in 2009, when she left to head the American Federation of Teachers. In April 2010, he was elected to a three-year term to succeed her.

One of the most powerful labor leaders in the country, the fiery Mulgrew has fought Mayor Bloomberg and the Department of Education on such issues as reversing the last-in, first-out policy in laying off teachers; plans to close struggling schools; and the public release of teacher ratings.

The UFT pays Mulgrew $250,400 a year, plus benefits.

Ostrowsky, a 10-year veteran, claims in the suit he’s being “targeted” for termination because an assistant principal gave him his first “unsatisfactory” rating last December. Supervisors also ordered him to undergo a DOE medical/psychological exam, but he wasn’t found to be unfit.

Hochstadt, who has sued the DOE over its notorious “rubber rooms” for teachers accused of misconduct, filed a similar suit for Ostrowsky last month in Manhattan Supreme Court.

She added the alleged sex scandal and coverup to the federal case, which complains the UFT has betrayed members by caving in to the DOE on several issues. Under one agreement, teachers “excessed” from closing schools, no matter their seniority, must work as substitutes until another school hires them. Walcott last week proposed buyouts for most of 831 educators in the Absent Teacher Reserve.

Ostrowsky seeks a purging of any negative documents in his file, and more than $600,000 in damages, including payment for “defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress.”

Teacher Francesco Portelos v Principal Linda Hill: Rubber Room Episode

New Yorkers who follow articles on the “rubber rooms” will remember that the media, UFT and Department of Education told the world that the famous “Rubber Rooms” were closed in July 2010 after Michael Mulgrew and Joel Klein agreed, on April 15, to end this public relations disaster (neither cared about the destruction of rights, hostile work environment, stigma plus torts, etc.).

Nope, nada, nyet, not exactly. What the UFT and DOE did was MOVE the people from the infamous warehouses (8 in all, see my article linked here) and scatter them around town so that no one could TALK to anyone else. The problem, Bloomberg and Klein finally realized, was that the 100+ people in most of the sites were talking about their charges, the ‘investigators’ etc., and they were finding common false claims, lies, and outright stupidity.

As we now know, Mayor Mike and his worker bee Joel Klein wanted to remove tenured teachers from the school system because, they believe – and so does the UFT – that all tenured people do no work. Tenure rights assure the person who holds these rights that he or she cannot lose his or her job no matter what happens, so no work means more play at work.

What does not matter to the mega billionaires of the world is, the truth.Facts. All that matters is their Truth, and making sure that everyone else sees their Truth the same way they do.

So, all the pleas and all the documentation of very good, hard-working, tenured NYC Department of Education employees telling the mega billionaires and their wanna-bees how different their views were from the Truth made no difference, because the rich dont have to listen to the non-rich.

The internet and social media are changing these rules.

On the internet, the mega rich and the non-rich are on common ground. Okay, maybe the mega-rich 1% can have a more glitzy look to the company blog, and maybe the home page can blink and burp in color and with catchy tunes, but so what. That’s what I love about Facebook. Everyone has the same stuff on their facebook pages, in terms of format, pictures, status, etc. We are all the Same even though we are totally unique.

This is also why I love to document each and every “rubber room” case: every case is totally unique, yet has similarities that intrigue, frustrate and anger anyone who hears about the story.

Franscesco Portelos

There is a reason why I love the story of Francesco Portelos.

He knew that the minute his principal, Linda Hill, started coming for him, that he needed to have the whole world in on the journey.

His blog, “Dont Tread On Mr. Portelos” in my
first article on his journey is now

“DtOE – Dont Tread on Educators”

“PROTECTPORTELOS”. You should go there, follow him, keep this postings on your Google reader.

Here’s some more background from FP:

How They Went After The Wrong Guy
LINK Visitor map
Those who oppose me continue to make mistake after mistake after mistake. Every single time they tried to quiet me down, I became louder and LOUDER and LOUDER.
They disciplined me for emailing staff members without permission…… I created a personal email list and now freely email 92 of them under my First Amendment Right.
They tried to silence me at a Union meeting….so I took over and received applause.
They called in the NY Post in attempt to smear my name and discredit me… the students found out and created a support page and my site visits more than doubled. Take a quick look at the comments below the online article.
They falsified documents again to discredit me….so I started an investigation on them.
They tried to silence me about financial questions….so I sent in a F.O.I.L request to see the last 3 years of their after school per session activities.
They took me out of school….so now I am placed at the heart of Staten Island’s educational community, Petrides Center.
I could go on and on, but one of the best was the following…….
After I gave my keys in on Thursday morning, I left the building and sat in a mini non existent Rubber Room at 51 Chambers St. Across the harbor, back at school, the NY State Math exam started and students were in my classroom. In their infinite wisdom, Principal Hill and Assistant Principal Aguirre decided it was the perfect time to bang away and change the 2 locks on my class and closet door for over a half hour. Concerned staff members later notified one person who would have no problem rectifying the problem (even though he was no longer present). I was appalled that they would interfere with the standardized testing and immediately contacted the NY State Test Administration. They told me to also contact the NYC DOE Testing office. The NYC Testing office also told me to notify the NYC Special Commissioner of Investigation (SCI). I did and told them to check Camera C2-19 that faces my room. The next day I was happy to hear that NY State officials were present all day to oversee the test. Bravo and kudos to the staff members who also contacted state officials. See how easy it was. I’m sure the potential for more distractions was eliminated on Friday so we made a difference. All this from a mini Rubber Room across the harbor. That is how I went from being present to omnipresent.
I have some more intel from potential wrongdoing at school coming in. My work on making Berta Dreyfus the best middle school on the island is far from over. Remember that “Sunlight is the best disinfectant.”
I believe this is the point where they turned on me and made me a scapegoat instead of performing the job they were elected to do. Had they and Principal Linda Hill acted in a proper and professional manner this would have been resolved back then. They did not and instead started building a baseless case against me. Richard Candia and Susanne Abramowitz eventually wrote false statements about me. See File Letter 1 in the Disciplinary Letter section. I have since called the DOE’s Office of Special Investigation to make a complaint for violating NYC Charter section 1116 False Accusations by a City Employee (OSI case 2012-2251). One of the things I find odd is that, back in the winter, Susanne Abramowitz asked UFT President Michael Mulgrew “What do we do if we can’t get rid of a horrible, horrible principal?” So it struck me as strange that now she was handing the principal my innocent Facebook posts.
Since then….

I have been kicked under the table during the January 10th SLT meeting when I disagreed with a comment made by the SLT chair stating that “The teachers agreed to keep the academies.” (in reference to a whole other issue of misrepresentation by the UFT Chapter Leader and SLT Chair)
I was called a “hindrance” to the community by the principal although I rallied to keep PS 14 open down the block the day before.
I was told to be quiet in a UFT meeting by the chapter leader. He walked out along with his girlfriend and SLT chair and tried getting the other 60+ members to leave. The other union members did not and I continued to speak about how “We are all in this together” and not to fight against each other. I was applauded in the end.
I was falsely accused by the SLT chairperson and UFT Chapter leader for professional misconduct
I had my online account access suspended by the principal when I sent an email to union members refusing to resign as UFT Delegate as per the request of the chapter leader. I also received a Disciplinary letter for emailing union members on a website I legally own and gave the principal admin access to.
I was slandered by the principal in a staff email calling me divisive, accusing me of calling the NY Post to make the school look bad. In the email she also quoted a Greek philosopher speaking virtue but not following it and it just so happens that I am Greek.
I received a 3rd Disciplinary Letter for staying too late to create engaging lessons.
I had an investigation by NYC Special Commissioner of Investigation started on me and had the investigators confiscate my teacher desktop, iPad and Macbook and even come to my house. (I had this much equipment because I am a technology teacher and involved in several grants.)
Principal Hill was also heard telling School Safety “Stay away from Portelos’ room. We are trying to get him out but it will be extremely difficult.”
I have filed a grievance for interfering with union business and requesting a cease and desist and removal of letter from file.
The CEP for 2011-2012 that is supposed to be aligned with the budget has been posted and the SLT members never signed or certified it. As of our last meeting we were still reviewing it. See SLT minutes for Feb. 7th. Also, the data and goals I proposed in January were on the labtop that was confiscated. I asked the SLT chairperson why the CEP is posted if we didn’t sign. She stated that we are to all sign off at our 3/20/12 meeting.
I was out for 3 days due to Jury Duty. I come back Friday morning to a classroom that was a mess. An Assistant Principal and CFN rep come in right away and spend the next 90 minutes observing the Special Education class I was teaching engineering basics to. They have every right to, but the Assistant Principal is the AP of Security. As she wrote on her clipboard, a random student walks into the class blasting music from an iPod he just passed through the metal detectors. Perhaps her focus should be more on security and less on classroom observations. Just a thought.
They called the NY Post again and attempted to smear my name and discredit me. It backfired. See comments under article.
Since I was deliberating on a case I was an hour late to the 3/20/12 SLT meeting. While I was absent the SLT Chairperson and Ms. Hill tried to vote me off. There were 2 other members absent as well. They even tried bringing in the Assistant Principals in an effort to intimidate voting. They LOST! I WON! Kudos to those who stayed strong and kept me in. They then asked me to resign and I refused that as well. At the meeting I am also threatened with words like “legal” and “litigation”.
Administrators are asking staff members if they are siding with Portelos or the “school”. Don’t they know the school and I are on the same team?
I received my first ever U rated informal observation report. It is so poorly written and incomplete I really do not know how to approach it.
On April 26th they finally REMOVED ME FROM THE SCHOOL!
“As a matter of self-preservation, a man needs good friends or ardent enemies, for the former instruct him and the latter take him to task.”
Francesco A. Portelos
@mrportelos -Created by students I had years ago.
FP is now sitting in one of the many new rubber rooms scattered throughout New York City.If you are on Staten island, you may bump into him.

Pulled out from the school I wanted to improve…until further notice!
Posted on April 27, 2012
As I entered the school building, on Thursday April 26, I was met by Principal Linda Hill, Assistant Principal of Security Joanne Aguirre and Safety Agent Gordon. I was asked to step into the auditorium and was handed papers to sign. They stated that I was to report to a reassignment facility and not to return to IS 49 until I have written permission (It did not indicate who the permission should be from). I handed over my keys to Ms. Hill and stated ..”a day that will live in infamy.“
As I write this blog post, 24 hrs later, I am still not told the alleged charges that were brought up against me. I sit with other educators who have been here in these “non existent” rubber rooms for months. I have to say that whispers of this were echoing for a month though. See my post below from my first site:
UPDATE 3/31/12: is moving! I am working on a better site with more interactivity, RSS Feed, sharing commenting. Your input is very important to me.
**Word on the streets (hallways) is that they are planning a drastic measure to get me out of school before the upcoming UFT elections. Do not be surprised if an “anonymous” 311 call is made accusing me of doing something awful. Either way they will have to take me out and put me on desk duty while they investigate.
Interestingly enough I also found this email, dated over a year ago, from Principal Hill. It was in response to my first big attempt to bring to light issues at the school. I spoke up at a Staff Meeting on April 1, 2011 (Maybe I was the fool that day). In response to me bringing up those issues I received a lengthy email in which I just took a short excerpt out and placed in red below:
On Sun, Apr 3, 2011 at 6:01 PM, Linda Hill wrote:
Dear Francesco,
[Message Truncated]
PS No one will ever discipline you unfairly because you spoke out! You don’t have to “watch your back” in that respect. I know the adults in the building appreciate that they are disciplined respectfully, privately, and fairly should they commit a transgression.
I made the mistake of believing her I guess. Perhaps she was right and I am being disciplined fairly and I deserve this.

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