Top DOE Official Fired After Allegedly Pulling Strings to Hire Wife

By Jill Colvin on March 27, 2012 4:37pm 

Tweed Courthouse, the headquarters for the Department of Education.
Tweed Courthouse, the headquarters for the Department of Education.
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Flickr/joseph a

MANHATTAN — A top Department of Education official is getting the boot after allegedly pulling strings to help get his wife hired, despite the fact that she could barely speak English and was unqualified for the job.

Angel Namnum, the executive director of the department’s Division of Finance, allegedly used his $190,000-a-year position to secure a job for his wife, Rosa Castillo, who hid her married name and went by her maiden name in the job, according to a new report from the Special Commissioner of Investigation’s office.

Castillo was hired to work in the DOE’s Extended Use Office in the Bronx in an entry-level, permit-issuing position for $52,000 a year in April 2011 — far higher than the typical $35,000 entry-level pay grade.

Coworkers told investigators that Castillo "barely spoke English" and had no computer skills, including no basic understanding of email, making her incapable of doing her job, they said.

"After reviewing the Special Commissioner’s report, it is obvious to me that Mr. Namnum abused his responsibility and privileges to secure a job for his wife, who was clearly unqualified. No one at any level of government should be allowed to put his own self-interest ahead of his obligation to the city," Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott said in a statement in response to the report.

A DOE spokesman said that Namnum, who has been an employee with the department since 1987, and began his career as a substitute teacher in math, will be formally dismissed by the end of business Tuesday.

Castillo is scheduled for a disciplinary conference this week, he said.

Namnum told investigators that he did not personally hire his wife, and was not involved in the hiring process, nor her supervision. Castillo also claimed her husband did not assist her in any way to get the job, the report said.

However, investigators said they spoke to Castillo's supervisor and other employees, who said Namnum personally told them that they needed to hire Castillo despite the fact that the department never requested any additional manpower and posted no vacancy for the job.

Namnum told one worker in the Bronx office where he was once the boss before moving to the DOE's Tweed Courthouse headquarters that, "there was going to be a position created for someone politically connected," but didn't say how it related to him, investigators found.

A few weeks later, the staffer got a phone call from Namnum directing her to call Castillo and request her resume, investigators said. On another occasion, Namnum allegedly asked the supervisor whether she would have a problem working with someone in his family.

DOE Senior Director of Operations and Administration Ornar Pereyra said Namnum asked Pereyra to do him a favor by hiring Castillo, whom Pereyra said he had no idea was Namnum’s wife, investigators said. Namnum denied the claim.

Staffers said Namnum shielded his wife in an unprofessional manner, including killing a plan to transfer one Bronx DOE worker to a Queens office after it came to light Castillo would be the one who would have to move. Her salary of $52,000 a year was also far higher than the typical entry level salary of $35,000 a year, investigators said.

This is also not the first time Namnum has been accused of pulling department strings to land a gig for his kin.

He was accused of forwarding his brother’s name to a local superintendent to be interviewed for a principal position in 2008 when he was a deputy director of budget in Region 2, investigators said. He was forced to pay a $1,250 fine as a penalty for that incident.

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