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Pigs At The Trough:
Living Large on Taxpayers' Money


Top Roslyn school officials and their friends and family siphoned off more than $11 million of district money in an elaborate scheme involving far more people and far more extravagant spending than had been suspected, a state report has found. Those implicated allegedly made mortgage payments on six different homes -- including two in Florida -- paid off personal loans, bankrolled vacations to the Caribbean, leased luxury cars and shelled out thousands of dollars at Tiffany's, Nordstrom's, Sharper Image, Coach and Rolex.

This has been going on for some time - grand larceny indictments of the former superintendent, the former business manager and a former clerk were all handed down previously; all pled not guilty- but it's only now, with the release of the audit report (pdf), that we are seeing the full scope of what went on in the Roslyn School District. Up to 26 people may be implicated when all is said and done. That's 26 people who took part in the systematic plundering of money that was supposed to be used within the school district. How many textbooks, how much lab equipment, musical instruments, playground equipment or supplies weren't bought because the budget wouldn't allow it? Because 11 million dollars was allocated for tropical vacations and four star restaurants?

[The auditors came to Long Island from across the state, accountants turned detectives on a case where much of the evidence was destroyed or missing. They fleshed out what authorities describe as a decade-long conspiracy of misspending that netted district officials and at least 10 of their relatives a staggering $11.2 million.


"Normally when you do a fraud audit the well runs dry," Hart said, but in Roslyn, "it never stopped for us."

"It was an orgy of spending," he added. "It just went on and on and on."

That's a list of misused funds [click for bigger]. Almost $600,000 on food. $609,000 at Home Depot, presumably for supplies for all the houses they were using district funds to pay for.

Those implicated allegedly made mortgage payments on six different homes -- including two in Florida -- paid off personal loans, bankrolled vacations to the Caribbean, leased luxury cars and shelled out thousands of dollars at Tiffany's, Nordstrom's, Sharper Image, Coach and Rolex.

It started with three employees misusing credit cards. Those three people then handed out credit cards to friends and family. Spreading the wealth, as it were. Somebody else's wealth. These people involved their children - giving them cash to pay off student loans and buy cars.

How they got away with it for so long is another story. It was a combination of the corruption running very deep and school officials who just did not do their job.

Taxpayers were cheated. Kids went without. And all the while, these pigs were living a life of largesse, taking vacations, building homes and buying luxury items while honest people worked their asses off in order to pay their school taxes (which are pretty damn high on Long Island - school property taxes for homeowners in Roslyn average $9,700 a year. In four years, the district's tax levy rose by 50 percent, to $69 million in 2004 from $46 million in 2000 [source]). And most of those hardworking people have children that they sent to Roslyn schools, expecting that their tax money would provide their children with the necessary supplies, equipment and staff for a good education. All the while, a gang of greedy grubbers was taking 11 million dollars worth of that money and pissing it away on themselves and showering their families with Playstations, printers and iPods.

Paul Vitello, Newsday:

Since I happen to live in Roslyn, I have calculated that the sum total of my school taxes during recent years has gone to pay for the school finance director's pet food ($14,000), the school superintendent's airfare to London on the Concorde jet ($10,796), and for pocket money that various school district employees had withdrawn from ATMs using Roslyn school district credit cards.

In some cases these withdrawals averaged $30,000 a month, according to a breathtaking audit released yesterday by State Comptroller Alan Hevesi.

Or maybe I paid for former Superintendent Frank Tassone's parking garage bill in Manhattan. That bill, charged to me, came to $42,000.

The thieves include the former superintendent of schools; someone who was entrusted with a position that affects every single child in the school district. The people of Roslyn were raped, and you can bet every last Rolex watch bought with stolen money that Roslyn is not the only school district where something like this is going on. In fact, I heard on the radio today (and I stole the title of this post from the radio show) that other Long Island disctricts will be audited soon.

The audit - which is fascinating reading - makes 27 recommendations to correct the internal workings of the school district. Too late for Roslyn taxpayers, however. And that's what bugs me the most. If I were a Roslyn taxpayer (and as a fellow Long Islander I'm sorely tempted to organize a sympathy rampage), I'd be out there with pitchforks and torches hunting these monsters down. Like the morning guys on WBAB said, bring back public flogging. Frank Tassone and Pamela Glucker - and everyone who knowingly took their stolen dollars and gifts - deserve it.


UGH, way to fire me up in the morning. REally, these people - I can't think of the punishment that would be fitting. Detroit had some pretty big money scandals too (and we're now 200 million in debt.) How do these people live with themselves?? The cover themselves with the mantle of such a noble endeavor ... then shit on it.

Something like this makes a lot of people wonder why they should pay attention when the next call for more money for the schools comes out. After all, how can they know it will really go for the stated purposes?

There needs to be much more transparency and accountability in the use of public monies.


Off-topic but important. It appears spyware is in your files.

I clicked on the first linked graphic (the one showing spending) and McAfee says the following Trojan Horse is in the file:


I'm using Viruscan engine 4400 with 4434 dats released Feb25.


Yea, got it the first time Slim. Please don't leave this comment in every post, k?


No problem. As a reformed previous non-smoker, I understand that dumping the Marlboro man can make one a bit snarky.

Consider: Perhpas unlike others, I read your blog starting from the top and proceeding down the page. I posted my alert to you as a favor, not having gotten far enough down the page to notice that you had already posted something about it.

I doubt there's a school district that hasn't had to deal with this, it's just a question of 1.) how big it is and 2.) whether they get caught. It's easy to fire someone who's a whistle-blower, and once you're fired in education you tend never to get hired again -- mostly because of union rules, school districts really never (or rarely -- exceptions can be made for football coachoes) hire anyone with experience because they'd have to pay them more.

I know many districts that have had public scandals, many more with... private ones.

Another reason to abolish the whole system. It's just too damn messed up.

Hahah, slim, I've done the same thing - start from the top & not look below for its context before posting. The "D'oh, I'm an idiot" feeling does go away, eventually.

Wheels is right, that there should be accountability, but there isn't a constituency for it. Look at Houston. This city is filled with colossal boondoggles courtesy of the previous Mayor: Lee Brown, the Hero of Crown Heights ™. He won here on what may be delicately termed an "ethnic coalition". He had 45% of the vote locked up going right out the gate, no matter HOW bad he screwed over the city budget and let the traffic, schools etc go adrift.

I can't say if Long Island has that level of electorate dysfunction, but it IS wedged between New Jersey, the Bronx, and lower New England; I'd be somewhat surprised to find a colony of angels in that Dantean circle.

I guess Michele could round up a posse to deliver wedgies to every voter who allowed these crooks to attain office, but that probably wouldn't be legal in her state. The only legal recourse against corruption actively supported by the majority is for "atlas to shrug".

This is an appalling case of corruption and betrayal of trust. But saying that the people of Roslyn were "raped"? Come on. That doesn't do your argument any favours.

This is a genuine scandal. It doesn't need to be beat up.

This is the sort of thing that makes me see red.

I can't even imagine a fitting punishment (that wouldn't be forbidden under the 8th Amendment) for these people. Losing their jobs, and never being able to work in a 'public sector' job is a start.

This is no different from when an executive embezzles. Or maybe, it's actually worse, because the taxpayers - who, unlike stockholders, don't have a choice - had their money stolen and used for purposes other than what it was earmarked for.

And I agree with the person who commented that it makes people think twice on voting for a bond issue. I sure as hell know I would.

Definitely there needs to be better oversight in these kinds of systems.