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School Staffers Caught Using City Credit Cards for Starbucks, Red Rooster

By Amy Zimmer | October 17, 2016 4:37pm
 Five former and current DOE employees agreed to pay fines of up to $2,500 for using school credit cards for personal purchases.
Five former and current DOE employees agreed to pay fines of up to $2,500 for using school credit cards for personal purchases.
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Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

MANHATTAN — A group of current and former Education Department staffers were busted using city-issued credit cards intended to be used for school supplies to treat themselves to more than $10,000 in food, drinks and pricey tickets to jazz at Harlem’s Red Rooster restaurant, investigators found.

In all, five current and former DOE employees acknowledged that they abused their Education Department-issued procurement credit cards — known as P-cards — for personal purchases and agreed to pay fines up to $2,500, according to a settlement announced Monday from the New York City Conflicts of Interest Board.

Patrick Fagan, who continues to work for the DOE at a Field Support Center; Sharon Rachelson, who is an administrator in a central office; Matthew Manner, Daniel Feigelson, who left the DOE in 2014 and Derek Jones — who left the DOE in 2012, admitted their wrongdoing after the cases were investigated by the Special Commissioner of Investigation for the New York City School District. The DOE has since increased their training and oversight of P-cards, officials said.

All five staffers were in high-level positions at the DOE’s networks, which were created under Bloomberg administration to serve as support systems for clusters of schools that opted into them, often based on their instructional needs. The networks were dismantled under Chancellor Carmen Fariña as the DOE returned to a geographic-based chain-of-command under superintendents.

When Patrick Fagan was a deputy cluster leader for a network he spent nearly $500 on personal food and drinks from Starbucks, McDonald’s and La Bagel Delight, between 2011 and 2012, incurring the $2,500 fine.

When Matthew Manner was director of operations for another network, he violated the DOE’s limit on spending no more than $8 per person for food and drink at staff meetings when he used his P-card to pay for a June 2012 end-of-year celebratory dinner at the Red Rooster that cost more than $4,000, including $1,400 for a lecture on jazz and live jazz performance to accompany the meal, according to the board.

The event cost roughly $114 per person.

Manner agreed to pay a $750 fine. His supervisor, Daniel Feigelson, was also fined $1,000, in connection to the event, as he was its planner.

Derek Jones, a former leader of one of the DOE’s networks, admitted to using his P-card on 13 occasions between 2011 and 2012 for nearly $80 worth of personal drinks at places like Starbucks and Hana Japanese.

He also violated the DOE’s limit on spending at staff meetings when he used his P-card for a $3,655 end-of-year dinner at Morton’s Steakhouse in Midtown, which he attended with 27 principals and assistant principals in his network. The meal coast roughly $130 per person.

He agreed to pay a $1,500 fine.

Sharon Rachelson, director of operations for a network, also violated the limit on spending when she used her P-card to pay for a $1,858 meal at the Park Side Restaurant in Corona in May 2010. The meal cost roughly $53 per person.

She agreed to pay a $500 fine.

Starting in 2012 — after all of these incidents occurred — the DOE created a committee including representatives of the Office of Auditor General, Division of Financial Operations, Office of General Counsel, and Office of School Support to ensure more effective P-card oversight.

As a result, the DOE instituted new mandatory trainings in P-card use as well as new, improved instruction, support and oversight of employees when they receive a P-card, school officials said.

“There are procedures in place so that employees receive the necessary training and oversight to use procurement cards appropriately,” DOE spokesman Will Mantel said. “We continue to strengthen training and oversight, and closely monitor use of all DOE funds.”