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Alleged hate mail principal in trouble for violating city ethics laws

Ron Smolkin violated city ethics laws, according to a disposition released today (Credit: NY1 Screenshot)
Ron Smolkin violated city ethics laws, according to a disposition released today (Credit: NY1 Screenshot)
Stephanie Snyder

A high school principal who is accused of sending anonymous hate mail about one of his teachers is in trouble again. This time, he used city funds to pay a secretary to help him with his homework.

Independence High School principal Ron Smolkin violated city ethics laws when he hired his secretary to proofread and edit his personal graduate work, according to a Conflict of Interest Board disposition released today. Smolkin paid her hundreds of dollars out of the school budget for the work, which took place over seven months between 2009 and 2010.

The violation cost Smolkin a one-time fine of $5,000, which will come out of his salary. He made $145,000 in 2009.

According to details of the disposition, the secretary edited 18 of Smolkin’s essays, which were part of his work toward a doctoral degree at New York University. Smolkin authorized payments totaling $764.03 for 39 hours of work, a rate of $19 per hour. He also agreed to pay back the money to the Department of Education.

“The Principal admitted that this conduct violated the City of New York’s conflicts of interest law, which prohibits a public servant from using City resources for any non-City purpose,” read a statement issued by the COIB. Smolkin and a principals’ union lawyer each signed the disposition.

A voice mail left on Smolkin’s phone at Independence High School was not returned. Calls and emails left for the principals’ union were also not returned.

It is the second time in three months that Smolkin’s name has surfaced as the subject of a city probe. Last June, Smolkin allegedly sent an anonymous hate letter to the co-op board that one of his teachers sat on, according to NY1. The letter included personal attacks about the teacher’s private life. The teacher, Michael McPherrin, said he was able to match hand writing from the letter to that of Smolkin.

McPherrin said he became the subject of retaliation after he became the teacher’s union rep at the school and challenged Smolkin’s leadership. The Manhattan District Attorney is currently investigating that case, but declined to comment.

Another city schools employee was named in the COIB report released today. Gregory Cooks, a teacher at PS 9 in Queens, was issued a public warning for attaching gift certificates for his insurance business to holiday cards the school sent home to parents.

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