August 22, 2012
A former network leader for the Department of Education forced a principal he supervised to hire his wife, then pressured the principal to retain her in a time of budget cuts, a city ethics agency has ruled.
John O’Mahoney was in charge of the Children First Network #208 in February 2011 when he met with the principal of one of the schools he oversaw to discuss a state audit of the school’s federally-funded academic intervention services program. It was at that time that O’Mahoney determined that the principal needed to create a teaching job for the program and “discussed my wife’s qualifications” for the position, he admitted in a signed deposition released by the city’s Conflicts of Interest Board.
Shortly after, O’Mahoney’s wife got the job.
Later that year, O’Mahoney learned that his wife’s position would be eliminated at the school, which was not named, because of budget cuts. He then instructed his network’s director of human resources to “inform the Principal that my wife’s position could not be excessed.”
Both acts were a violation of the city’s ethics laws and O’Mahoney is required to pay a $4,000 fine, the board ruled.If the case sounds vaguely familiar, it’s not the first time that a network leader was the subject of alleged nepotism. Earlier this year, another network leader was reported to be living with one of the principals that she supervised and had recently hired the wife of another principal that she oversaw.
O’Mahoney’s former network, CFN 208, currently supports 20 elementary and middle schools in Queens. It is one of more than 60 Children First Networks, which were formed by former Chief Schools Officer Eric Nadelstern in 2009 during the department’s third organizational restructuring in less than a decade under the Bloomberg administration. They are part of an ongoing effort to hand over greater authority to school leadership and away from the districts that used to govern schools.
O’Mahoney left the network last year, but he seems to have landed on his feet. He was hired as principal of Sheepshead Bay High School, one of the 24 former “turnaround” schools that the city tried to close earlier this year. O’Mahoney replaced longtime principal Reesa Levy, who left in December 2011.
It’s unclear how much longer O’Mahoney will be in the position, however. A spokeswoman said that the department was ”taking this seriously and reviewing the findings.”