Saturday, October 8, 2016

A Word of Caution About Selecting the New NYCERS Executive Director

Just in case anyone is entertaining the thought of appointing Karen Mazza as the new executive director of NYCERS, including Mazza herself, let me refresh your memory about her illustrious career.

In 1990 I was appointed executive director at NYCERS after 17 years with the agency. In that position I had steady contact with the NYCERS Chair and other NYCERS trustees. At that time it was common for the Mayor to appoint the Finance Commissioner as the Chair of NYCERS.

In 1993 Mazza went to work for the Mayor's Pension Unit at the Finance Department. That unit supported the Commissioner with his/her duties as NYCERS Chair. In that position she worked for an attorney named Norm Rosner who was the Commissioner's alternate at the NYCERS Board. Rosner made it clear to me that Mazza was not an effective employee but gave no details. At the time I did not appreciate his insight into this woman. In hindsight, it is quite clear why he held her in such low esteem. She left Finance in 1994 and went to work at the Comptroller's Office.

In 1991 Leo Vallee and I began writing procedural descriptions for all newly passed pension legislation that impacted NYCERS. These write ups are still being used today. At that time NYCERS had an old time permanent staff lawyer who thought he was a brilliant legal writer. Unfortunately he was not. He was, however, honest.

In 1997, I hired Mazza as an administrative staff analyst. I was hoping we would get help with the analysis of the pension legislation along with other in-house legal issues. Because of the 1996 legislation giving NYCERS budgetary independence, I was legally prohibited from hiring lawyers in legal titles unless I had approval from the Law Department. The Law department was not about to give NYCERS that approval.

Unfortunately, Vallee and I had to continue writing the legislative descriptions because Mazza was also not able get the job done. This was a warning sign that Mazza was not an astute analytical attorney.

Falsifying Time Sheets

In 2000, Mazza gave birth to her second child. Also in 2000 we moved into the new office site in Brooklyn. She returned from maternity leave in late 2000. She returned to 8:00-3:45 work schedule. I worked a 9-5 schedule. Her new office had an open glass front as did all managers' offices and was twenty feet down the hall from my office. Whenever I passed her office I would be able to know whether she was in her office or she was on the phone. For the record she was on the phone almost every time I walked by.

In 2001, I began to notice that when I would arrive to work she was not in her office. I would eventually find her after 9:30 or later. She was one of the top three managers in the agency. Managers have a certain leeway with their schedules in that a manager can be make up time at the end of the day if he/she comes in late in the morning. She, however, was meticulous about dashing out the door at 3:45 hoping I would not see her.

One of my duties was to sign off on the time sheets of all of my direct reports which Mazza was. When I became aware of her absences at the beginning of the day, I started to closely cross check her time sheets with the days when I knew she was late and found that she was falsely recording her starting time as 8:00 when she very often was not arriving until 9:30 or later.

To double check what I had found, I examined the security system which records when all employees enter the working area of the office. Sure enough as another sign of her dishonesty, on the days that she was late she would make sure she did not swipe her security access card. She instead would tell the security guard on the front desk that she had forgotten her card and ask him to buzz her in through the security door. This meant that there was no trace in the security system of when she actually arrived.

I should have fired her at this point.

In retrospect, it was the worst mistake I made while running NYCERS. Foolishly I gave her a second chance. I spoke to her about what I had discovered. She tried to deny it. I told her it had to stop and that I would be closely monitoring her time sheets. From then on she knew I was watching her like a hawk. This was not a good situation.

In addition, in a regular weekly managers' meeting I made it very clear to the all managers that they had to swipe through security every day and if they forgot their card that they had to sign in with Security and mark their time. I got a few funny looks but Mazza knew I was talking about her.

Perjury and Fraud

Subsequently in early 2004 during the hiring process for a new HR director Mazza enabled Felita Baksh to falsify her writing sample which was crucial in my decision to appoint Baksh as the NYCERS HR director. This was in addition to the help that she gave Baksh with her resume.

As everyone at NYCERS has come to know, it is a law of nature that Baksh/Ramsami/DiLorenzo can not write a grammatically correct sentence never mind a two page essay. As a cruel twist of fate, the one HR staff member who unknowingly observed Mazza and Baksh rig the writing sample was eventually fired by Mazza and Baksh. This was after Conflict of Interest Board had fined Baksh for using this employee's credit card to buy furniture.

Later in 2004 Mazza conspired with the DOI investigator, Carol DeFreitas, who was investigating Baksh's appointment. DeFreitas was Martha Stark's "man" on staff at DOI. DeFreitas was literally her employee on assignment at DOI. I need not say anything more about Stark. Together Mazza and DeFreitas were able to supress any mention of Baksh's lying under oath or the false writing sample.

While one trustee forwarded the perjury charge to DOI, there was never any follow up.

Retaliation Against My Wife

After I was fired in March of 2005 Mazza was involved with creating trumped up charges against my wife which lead to her being demoted. Over the next ten years Mazza was a driving force behind placing my wife in position where she had no work assignments and ensuring that any attempt to give her work was blocked. In 2015 my wife had to resign because of health reasons. Over the ten years she had developed sever colitis and had a major heart attacked which almost killed her.

Just a Bad Lawyer

I previously mentioned that Mazza is a incompetent lawyer. In 2008 she was so unable to handle pension issues that she had NYCERS issue a $100K per year no-bid contract to a former law Department staffer to do her work. This went on for 4 or 5 years.

In 2008 Mazza lawyer began harassing the Tier 4 accident disability EMT retirees over the alleged gainful employment issue and forced then to enact legislation to override her incorrect interpretation of the disability statute. She also managed to deny a disabled EMT worker her rightful disability benefit.

When the Workers' Compensation Offset issue arose in 2012, she was in the fore front of crucifying Tier 3 retirees who were receiving disability benefits. Who can forget her words when she was cutting disabled pensioners' checks to $10 a month "we're trying to leave them with something in their pocket at the end of the month".

In 2006 NYCERS signed a lease for a disaster recovery site in Long Island City. Mazza handled the lease and all the the contracts for this fiasco. Ten years later the site still does not have a Certificate of Occupancy.

Closing Thought

D'Alessandro, the executive director, has been a nasty empty suit for eleven years at NYCERS. Now, in July, she appoints Mazza as Deputy Executive Director to fill the spot that opened up with the retirement of the person who held the position for ten years. Then two months later in September D'Alessandro announces her own retirement. What do you think is going on?

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