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8th March

First Published in The New York Sun, March 8, 2004

By Andrew Wolf

Schools Chancellor Joel Klein may have to face the music today over findings that one of his key deputies forced staffers to give her husband a job and then tried to cover it up. 

    Mayor Bloomberg has called Mr.Klein on the carpet over a report that said Deputy Chancellor Diana Lam got her husband,Peter Plattes,a $100,000 job as a Bronx regional administrator, even though he lacked the qualifications. 
    The New York Sun first reported Ms. Lam’s maneuvers last summer. School officials at first denied he was being paid, but sources told the Sun he had been put on the payroll under orders from top school officials who were aware he was married to Ms. Lam, who makes $250,000 a year. 

    The nepotism puts Mr. Klein in a sticky position because Mayor Bloomberg has denounced the practice and has declared his administration would have “zero tolerance” for conflicts of interest in the schools. 
    Some observers think the mayor may demand Mr. Klein bounce Ms. Lam. Last summer, another deputy chancellor, Anthony Shorris, resigned a week after it was disclosed that he was moonlighting as a paid consultant for a city labor union. 

    After the Sun’s reports, the special schools investigator, Richard Condon, began a probe. He issued a scathing report on the matter on Friday. 

    The report found Ms. Lam used her influence to win two positions in her department for her husband and failed to seek or obtain the required waivers from the city’s Conflicts of Interest Board.Thwarted, she engaged in a cover-up and has consistently lied about it. 

    After the Sun began inquiring, all of the paperwork on Mr. Plattes was withdrawn and the computer records were deleted. 

    The Condon report lays responsibility for some of the misinformation at the feet of Chad Vignola, counsel for the Department of Education. 

    The report doesn’t address some questions: How could so many top-level educrats, which included a number of lawyers, let this appointment proceed without questioning the lack of the required waiver? If the Conflicts of Interest Board would have approved this, how could it have been criticized? 

    Some insiders feel the answer is that at every step along the way, the appointment was pushed along out of fear; no one called a halt to the coverup. At the time this was going on hundreds of jobs were being eliminated, and many school system employees were being terminated. 

    After the supervisor job was derailed, Ms. Lam tried once again, getting her husband a teaching job at the Bronx Guild High School at the end of August. This is one of the new small “new century” high schools. He got the job and received a paycheck, which was never cashed,and left just days into the school year. 
    Controversy is nothing new for Ms. Lam. She brought contention with her to every job throughout her career. She left her job as superintendent of the Chelsea, Mass., schools to run for mayor of Boston in 1991. That effort ended abruptly when it was disclosed that she had failed to file taxes. 

    When she led the San Antonio school system, things went so badly that the district reportedly paid her more than $750,000 to vacate her post before the expiration of her contract. 

    Ms. Lam landed a new job in Providence, R.I., where, in her final few months,some critics say she encouraged a “bidding war” over a new contract for herself between Providence and Portland, Ore.This resulted in a $30,000 pay increase plus other benefits. 

    Days after agreeing to stay in Providence, she accepted the job with Mr. Klein — and notified the Providence school board of her resignation by e-mail.

© 2004 The New York Sun, One, SL, LLC. All rights reserved.

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