Written by Joe Scotchie Friday, 05 February 2010 00:00
The Roslyn School District embezzlement scandal hit the news again as Frank A. Tassone, the former superintendent who pleaded guilty to grand larceny, has been granted parole and was scheduled to leave jail this past Tuesday.
In October 2006, Tassone was sentenced to 4 to 12 years on grand larceny charges. He achieves parole eight months and four days shy of that original four-year minimum term. Tassone had been serving his time in Hale Creek Correctional Facility in Johnstown, NY. According to published reports, his new home will be an undetermined location in the Bronx, the borough where Tassone grew up.
Tassone will remain on parole until 2018. According to a spokesman for the New York State Division of Parole, he is not allowed to work in a job with fiduciary responsibility. However, that might not matter, since Tassone will be receiving his annual pension of over $173,495. According to state law, Tassone was allowed to receive that pension even while incarcerated.
The release sparked criticism from both the Roslyn Teachers Association and the Nassau County District Attorney’s office. Officials at the Roslyn School District had no comment.
“The legal world might be a very complicated place,” noted Eleanor Russell, President, Roslyn Teachers Association. “However, I am not a lawyer. As a regular person, I can’t understand how someone of trust who steals money, disrupts an entire community, and lets down the children he is supposed to serve, can be allowed by the law to serve only one third of his total prison sentence. Frank Tassone, the former Roslyn Superintendent, will now be able to go on with his life while the Roslyn community and staff must live with the devastation that he caused. The former Superintendent served four years. Teachers have been without a contract for almost two years. That might be the law, but it’s not justice.”
“We have been vehemently opposed to his release,” added Nassau County Attorney Kathleen Rice. “I think it sends the wrong message to a community that was betrayed in the most sinister way. Unfortunately, white-collar crime and betrayals of the public trust are routinely dismissed and excused by certain sectors of the criminal justice system. While we have fought to change this mentality, this decision is more evidence of the systemic lack of appreciation for the seriousness of these crimes.”
Tassone’s release from jail ends another story in an embezzlement scandal that gained the Roslyn area much unwanted notoriety earlier in the decade. For an extended period of time, school district employees, including the superintendent, used credit cards from multiple sources for numerous and in some cases, costly purchases, including vacations to Europe. In all, about $11 million was stolen from the district. According to Rice’s office, about $5.5 million has been recovered by the school district. Tassone pleaded guilty to embezzling more than $2 million, all of which, county authorities said, has been paid back.
The scandal led to wholesale changes in the makeup of the board of education, with all members who served during the time of scandal either resigning or being voted out of office. It also forced passage of a 2005 state law, one that mandated all school board members receive financial training and that the New York State Comptroller’s office audit every school district in the state at least once by 2010.
Due to the scandal, the Roslyn schools became the focus of news stories in the metropolitan area, including profiles in both New York magazine and The New York Times. Such profiles noted the popularity that Tassone once enjoyed among residents in the school district, owing to such innovations as the Gold Card credit card for senior citizens. They also noted the anger and deep sense of betrayal felt by local parents once the scandal became news. That anger among local residents resurfaced again when they learned the news of Tassone’s early release.
“It’s unconscionable that our state government continues to allow a person who stole the integrity of a public education system not to mention millions of dollars and damaged the reputation of an honorable community to continue to receive his pension for life and health benefits when the Roslyn community has to struggle under a near unconsionable school tax burden due to his legacy,” said Jeff Borowick, longtime Roslyn resident and former school board member. “I fervently hope that the Roslyn community will never again allow apathy and complacency to compromise the quality of our children’s education or the financial stability of our residents through unjustified spending levels.”
When the investigations were completed, six people pleaded guilty to various charges. One of them, Pamela Gluckin, remains behind bars at a correctional facility in Manhattan. Ms. Gluckin pleaded guilty to grand larceny and is currently serving a 3 to 9 year sentence. An attempt by Ms. Gluckin to achieve bail last year was denied. She will be eligible for parole again in 2011.