Fraud Marred N.Y.C. Elections, Report Says

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New York City's most recent community-school-board elections were conducted incorrectly and plagued by fraud and corruption, investigators have concluded.

A report issued last month by Edward F. Stancik, the special commissioner of investigation for the city school system, documents what it says was widespread mismanagement and abuse of the election process and recommends that the process be overhauled.

"If the purpose of the decentralization of the New York City Schools is to empower local communities and encourage parental involvement in the education of their children,'' the report says, "then the manner by which the decentralized boards elect their representatives is a recipe for disaster.''

The election process, in which paper ballots and proportional representation are used to select the members of the 32 local boards, is "archaic and easily manipulated even when everyone plays by the rules,'' the report maintains.

As things stand, it says, the rules "are ignored with impunity,'' and parents and teachers often are disenfranchised or are coerced into backing certain candidates. The abuses alleged include ballot-box stuffing and widespread violations of financial-disclosure rules.

The special commissioner, who operates independently of the school system, called for disciplinary action to be taken against several school officials, and he listed a number of cases that have been referred to various law-enforcement agencies as a result of his 10-month investigation of last May's elections.

Mr. Stancik declined to challenge any election results, however, saying no outcomes were affected by fraud.

Elections Board Faulted

The report, entitled "From Chaos to Corruption,'' faults the city's elections board for lacking interest in the elections, wasting money in administering them, and doing little to improve the integrity of a voting process that was found to be widely flawed during previous local board elections in 1989.

Voters had little privacy for the balloting, often having to vote in the open where they were hounded by candidates and their supporters, the report says, while basic security precautions, such as the sealing of ballot boxes, were ignored. At the same time, the elections board asked the city's police officers to spend a total of almost 10,000 work hours guarding the ballot boxes stored in warehouses.

Daniel DeFrancesco, the executive director of the elections board, dismissed the special commissioner's allegations as unfounded and based largely on hearsay. No legal challenges have been mounted against election results, agency officials noted.

Jon R. Delgiorno, the election board's administrative manager, said the board has tried for a decade to persuade the state legislature to enact two reforms in the local-election process that were suggested by Mr. Stancik: an end to paper balloting and an end to proportional representation.

The special commissioner's report blames both the elections board and the city's central board of education for bungling the registration of parent voters.

Forgery and Fraud Cited

Schools Chancellor Ramon C. Cortines said in a statement that the report "underscores the fact that the board of education is not the city agency best suited to undertaking a citywide election.'' He pledged to lobby for legislation to end the board's involvement.

Following Mr. Stancik's recommendations, Mr. Cortines last month directed local school boards to reassign and begin dismissal proceedings against Stuart Possner, a school principal in Community School District 21 in Brooklyn, who was accused of unduly pressuring teachers to vote, and James Sullivan, who, as director of pupil personnel in District 10 in the Bronx, was accused of orchestrating a fraudulent absentee-ballot scheme.

Mr. Stancik also has recommended the removal of Kenneth Drummond, a District 12 board member indicted for submitting fraudulent nominating petitions, and Benjamin Ramos, a District 9 board member who reportedly does not live in the state.

The lists of those referred to other law-enforcement agencies includes a nun accused of submitting fraudulent nominating petitions, a District 9 board member who allegedly held an election fund-raiser using district personnel and failed to account for thousands of dollars in proceeds, and a political activist from Queens accused of circulating campaign literature with fraudulent endorsements.

Vol. 13, Issue 16

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