The Village Voice - May 25, 1993 * Vol XXXVIII No. 21
The Man Who Sold Out School District 12
By Russ Baker
EVEN BY NEW YORK standards it was an astonishing display of venality—disgraced former principal Virginia Noville handing $2000 over to a school board member as a down payment for a new job, all caught on video. That tape, accompanying a report released April 29 by board of education investigators, epitomized corruption in School District 12. The footage was perfect for TV, one snapshot from years of systemic graft that has undermined the health, education, and welfare of tens of thousands of New York children. But Noville is a bit player. One of the real stars, a man corruption investigators found to be a ”godfather” of District 12, barely made the news.
His name is Kenneth W. Drummond and he appears throughout the scorching report that details widespread corruption, nepotism, and cronyism in the Bronx school district. On an informant’s recording, for example, Drummond is heard ordering a prospective principal to write a business plan for Drummond’s private tax concern, warning of the consequences of refusing; “Hey, you don’t get textbooks, you don’t get little grants. You know all the little things that can be done to principals. Your life can be made very, very miserable.”
The Voice has taken a special interest in Drummond, beyond the report’s damning details of life in District 12. To follow Drummond’s career through the city’s public service sector, from one caper to another, is to understand just how vulnerable our institutions are and how they might be protected.
Before Drummond came to dominate the District 12 board—which comprises 22 schools, more than a thousand employees, 17,117 students, and a $76 million budget—he had already established a history of corruption in the nonprofit realm that in a sane world would have barred him from any role in public education. Instead, the 49-year-old, Harlem-born Drummond simply became bolder and bolder as each act of turpitude went unpunished. Like his sometime ally, Bronx kingpin Ramon S. Velez, whose inefficient poverty programs have made him a wealthy man, Drummond has used his considerable political savvy to prey on the poorest of the poor.
Drummond’s most recent display of chutzpah was running for—and winning— a seat on the District 12 school board, a $125-a-month position he has been dismissed from twice. The list of this board’s transgressions is endless. One prospective principal was forced to chauffeur a member and tend her garden, and a relative of another board member was off buying drugs while being paid to watch kids in after-school programs. In fact, the April 29 report, issued by special commissioner Ed Stancik, found that virtually “every hiring decision is based on the impact it will have on the personal and political fortunes of the board members.”
The Stancik report identifies Drummond as the leader of the “A-Team,” the black faction in District 12 that vies with the Latino faction for control of the patronage dispensal machinery. It was a Drummond crony and then board member, Edward Cain, who in April took the on-camera payment from the job-seeking Noville. (She had been fired in 1989 from her previous position as a principal in Brooklyn after the Voice, dubbing Noville “The Cookie Monster,” reported how she personally profited from the sale of overpriced junk food to students.) As for Cain, he was cooperating with investigators in the Noville sting as part of a plea bargain for his own misdeeds in District 12.
Drummond and his subordinates trade principal jobs for money and favors, routinely degrading a district already ranked 31st out of 32 school districts in math last year and tied for 30th in reading. Qualifications are not discussed. He forced favor-seekers to sell $20 tickets to his school board fundraiser, according to the Stancik report, then pocketed most of the money. And to ensure that his favored hires (“pieces” in the district vernacular) survive the selection process, he stacks it from top to bottom. Indeed, the administratively bloated district ranks first in its spending on assistant principals and next to last in salaries paid to teachers—whose jobs the board has no power to fill.
The results can be nightmarish. Among those Drummond’s faction advanced was Jewel Moolenaar, the principal at P.S. 129 who won citywide notoriety last fall for browbeating an eight-year-old child who said she’d been raped by a custodian. Moolenaar didn’t even notify authorities. Another winner was Marietta Tanner. When an inspection team visited her school, IS 167, in 1991, they found students roaming the halls aimlessly and teachers chronically absent or late. Noting that 20 false fire alarms were pulled in a single day, the team concluded, “The adults have lost control of the building;”
It isn’t just this building. Under Drummond’s thumb, all of District 12 is out of control. And like a lot of other bad school board members, Drummond doesn’t even live in the district, which is why he keeps getting kicked off the board. The Drummond family resides in Skyview, a condo complex in Riverdale. Over the years, he claimed an apartment at 810 Ritter Place as his primary residence. Yet even that address is across the street from the District 12 boundary. In a brief phone interview with the Voice—before making himself unavailable for this article—Drummond admitted that his children, a son and daughter now in their twenties, had attended schools in Riverdale’s District 10. Bizarrely, Drummond justified it by saying, “Ten is just as bad as 12."
A CREATIVE ACCOUNTANT
AFTER GETTING AN accounting degree from Long Island University in 1968, Drummond joined the firm of Lucas, Tucker, which audited poverty programs under the city’s Community Development Agency. While examining the books of a nonprofit group, the 163rd Street Improvement Council, he became friendly with its director, Al Goodman.
Goodman also happened to be a board member of the umbrella group funding 163rd Street: the Morrisania Community Corporation in the central Bronx. Morrisania was run by a board of directors not unlike the District 12 school board: two stratified blocs, each with the same number of blacks and Latinos. “We never got anything done unless someone stayed home,” said a former member. “So we started trading.”
Indeed, deals were already common when Goodman, sensing a soulmate in young Kenny Drummond, helped Drummond (by then working for the big 10 accounting firm, Peat, Marwick) to become Morrisania’s controller in 1970. Drummond packed up his Harlem apartment, and he and his wife Ester moved to the Morrisania neighborhood.
Drummond's performance at Morrisania would prefigure everything that was to be-fall District 12. “He was a good convincer,” said Hubert Irons, Morrisania’s chairman at the time. “After that, it was all downhill.”
First, though, came the climb. In 1972, after, according to colleagues, cutting a deal with one Latino on the board, Drummond got himself named executive director. That’s when, Irons recalled, Drummond got really creative with the help of fiscal director Amy Presley, who was also Drummond’s girlfriend. (Presley has moved to California, several associates said, and the Voice was unable to locate her.)
Morrisania brought in a lot of bucks through a federal contract to provide home care for the elderly and disabled. The federal government paid Morrisania $8 an hour, while the agency passed just $3.25 to the worker. The rest went for administration, which in part meant providing jobs—often no-shows--to cronies in return for kickbacks.
Drummond was able to operate with impunity by influencing who got on Morrisania’s board. He did this, a colleague said, by creative strategies at the ballot box. “All you needed was proof of existence,” said an associate. “You go to any stationery store, you buy a bunch of rent receipts, you make them out in whatever name.”
“Drummond is no dummy,” said George Reid, .a former Drummond right-hand man. “I told Ken, ‘If your brain was put toward positive things, you could be one of the most powerful politicians in the Bronx.” But Drummond went negative and still became one of the most feared pols in the Bronx.
The early '70s were a time of ethnic wrangling in the borough, and Drummond and his crew in the central Bronx would go down to help their black brethren compete with the Latinos in South Bronx/Hunts Point. Eventually, Drummond’s guru Al Goodman cut a deal with Ramon Velez, the Puerto Rican Bronx baron who presides over a vast antipoverty/patronage empire. The blacks would dominate Morrisania and leave the South Bronx to Velez. “We were able,” Velez told the Voice, “to reach some understanding;” It was to be the first of many back-scratching arrangements with the omnipotent Velez.
In 1973, leaders of the Morrisania black faction hatched a plan whereby they would seek higher office, using the program’s influence to bring in campaign help and votes. Goodman would run for district leader. Chairman Hubert Irons would seek the local assembly seat. And Drummond declared he would run against Herman Badillo for Congress in 1976. Meanwhile, Badillo struck a bargain with Irons he’d back Irons against the incumbent assemblywoman and Irons would back him. Irons told Drummond he shouldn’t be running. Drummond ignored him, and not long after, in 1975, Drummond was removed from the executive directorship.
It wasn’t hard to find reasons to get rid of Drummond. An internal audit revealed that Amy Presley had signed several thousand dollars worth of questionable checks to Drummond, and he had also run up thousands in parking tickets, then had them paid by Morrisania. (The Voice has confirmed that Drummond continued to drive—and was involved in an accident— long after his license was revoked.) Drummond approved all the transactions, though Presley signed the checks. “Drummond never signs anything,” said one colleague, familiar with his history, adding that several fiscal officers he worked with were his “girlfriends.”
MARTIN LUTHER KING JR.
WITHOUT THE salary from Morrisania, Drummond found himself broke; he even had to give up his Bronx apartment. He could rely a bit on New Ventures Tax Service, the Boston Road business he’d opened in 1969, which usually was busy only during tax season and which his wife managed.
In 1977, however, his luck changed. Al Goodman got a block grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for school lunches, to be administered through the 163rd Street Improvement Council. Goodman tapped Drummond to be program director. In 1977, Drummond ran for the District 12 school board and won, but his most lucrative opening in that decade came the following year. Monteflore Hospital gave up its controlling interest in the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Health Center, just a short stroll from Drummond’s tax office. It was the nation’s oldest—and one of the largest—federally funded health clinics. In a given year, as many as 140,000 patients passed through its doors.
A community leader recommended Drummond for the newly constituted board of directors, and he soon became its president and chairman, responsible for annual budgets as large as $12 million. He was joined on the board largely by neighborhood people who knew little of the ways of nonprofit institutions. “We were not well-informed about what was going on,” said Thelma Boyd, a board member. Another member, Juan Santos, said, “Everything was so secret. We didn’t know anything.” Marjorie Durden, an accountant who served briefly, said nothing substantive was decided at meetings. “I don’t know how the decisions were made,” she said, “but they weren’t made in the meetings.”
Marcella Brown, a King vice-chairwoman and the person who, as Community Board chairwoman, got Drummond onto the King board, explained how it worked: “He would’ve. . . already let certain board members know what was coming up so they would know what to say.”
The general pliancy was no surprise, for most of the King board members owed Drummond in a big way. By the late ‘80s, out of 20 board members, about half had jobs or board positions in School District 12, courtesy of Drummond, or at neighboring School District 9, where a close friend of Drummond ran things. Drummond furthered his influence by sitting on Community Planning Board 4 and heading a local Democratic club.
Many of the King Center patients at the five-story complex, which included adolescent and alcoholism programs, come from the massive Claremont Village housing complex across the street, where residents contend with record high rates of hypertension, sexually transmitted diseases, infant mortality, diabetes, and so on. The facility was crumbling, yet Drummond spent $25,000 to fix up his office, even installing a light that went on at the sound of a handclap. He would attend health-care conventions, take a female friend, book a room for $150 a night, and skip the meetings. But somehow, there just wasn’t enough money to keep the center up.
In 1987, state inspectors noted, “The walls and floors were dirty throughout. Cockroaches were running freely throughout the premises. .. Many dental chairs did not function since the motors were broken and most had torn upholstery exposing the insulation within....” Fire hazards were everywhere, smoke detectors nowhere.
POLITICS AND PETTY CASH
DRUMMOND TOOK WHAT was to be a part-time, oversight board function, and turned it into a personal business and political powerbase. In 1987 state health department inspectors discovered a secret bank account controlled by the board. As with Presley at Morrisania, here Drummond relied on another girlfriend, Elsie Moncion, who became treasurer of the King board. In 1987, $116,000 passed through the account, $84,000 of which was income from King Center rental properties. One property was leased to a supermarket, but the rent money never seemed to flow back to the health center. Numerous sources told the Voice that friends of his were able to shop without paying; market owners refused to comment.
Copies of the checks written on the secret account and examined by the Voice show typical amounts to be round sums in the $100-to-$500 range, paid to individuals listed on the memo line as “consultants.” Gloria Perry, the King Center’s former executive director, said she has never heard of any of the so-called consultants. But George Reid, Drummond’s former vice-chairman, and others told the Voice that those people cashed their checks and gave part back to Drummond. In addition, according to three King cashiers, Drummond regularly swooped into petty cash, where on any given day as much as $10,000 might have accumulated. Sometimes he would scribble an IOU. Sometimes he wouldn’t bother.
One of the best things about the center was that it had all the trappings of a topnotch campaign operation: workers, vans for transporting voters, a computer firm to produce voter lists for mailings, and cold cash. In 1980, for instance, Rachel Williams came on board as special projects coordinator. She was immediately assigned the special project of helping Drummond and cronies run for office. "My job was mostly political,” she said. “Half the time I wasn’t even there. I was in the campaign office.”
Besides Williams, a host of other King staffers were often absent from their posts, working on Drummond’s campaigns or, especially at tax time, in his private New Ventures office. Of those candidates she worked for over the years, Williams said, “They were handpicked by Drummond, and he financed their campaigns for whatever political office he felt they should run for at that time.”
As special projects coordinator, Williams organized annual dinner dances at Marina Del Rey, a fancy catering hall; vendors wishing to do business with the King Center were pressured to buy large numbers of tickets. Peter Robinson, a health care consultant brought in by the federal government, said when he heard about the dinner dance, he asked why the $15,000 to $20,000 in net proceeds were not posted to the center’s operating account, and was told, “You needn’t worry about them.”
But the biggest disappearing act involved data processing. As the debts mounted, the clinic continued to pay about $800,000 a year to Hospital Billing Services of Oradell, New Jersey, owned by an old friend of Drummond’s who was one of the most generous contributors to the dinner dances. Computer costs chewed up 8 to 10 per cent of the center’s budget, three times what it should have, by one auditor’s estimation. Perhaps this was because, according to Williams, the billing company did not charge Drummond for political mailings it handled for him.
The party at the King center began to wind down in 1987, the last of Drummond’s nine years as chairman. That year he and other longtime members were forced to resign by the federal Public Health Service, which in 1988 also withdrew its grant. Later that year, the remaining directors filed for bankruptcy. The Martin Luther King Jr. Health Center was $4.2 million in debt, including $2 million in employee withholding taxes owed to the IRS and New York state. (Some directors, though apparently not Drummond, are still paying off their liability.)
Attorney General Robert Abrams then went into court to demand the ouster of the remaining board members, who he charged were “Drummond’s. . . friends, intimates, and political cronies” and still answering to him. There was also an FBI agent, three King officials recall, looking into the possible illegal diversion of federal funds to Drummond’s political operation. The agent expressed deep frustration when she was abruptly pulled off the case. (The FBI refused to comment.) Drummond, for his part, bragged to a friend that he had dealt with the FBI by hiring a high-powered attorney who assured him that contacts in the U.S. attorney’s office said he had nothing to worry about.
As far as the Voice can determine, there has never been a criminal probe of the Martin Luther King Jr. Health Center finances, not even of the secret account discovered in 1987 by the State Department of Health. Today the clinic is operated by a bankruptcy trustee.
KENNETH DRUMMOND HAS damaged, looted, or ruined three vital community institutions—Morrisania, the King Health Clinic, and School District 12. To accomplish so much, even a smart and charming man, which Drummond indisputably is, needs friends in high places. Although Drummond may be a godfather, there’s a bigger godfather in the Bronx, a man with whom Drummond has always had to bargain—Ramon Velez, the South Bronx poverty pimp. Despite the traditional feuding between blacks and Latinos in the area, Drummond managed to form numerous bonds with Velez.
Since the early ‘70s, when Al Goodman and Drummond agreed with Velez to divide their end of the Bronx, the dealmakers have repeatedly cooperated and been respectful of turf. In 1976, when Drummond ran for Congress in the 21st District against Herman Badillo, the third candidate was Velez. Badillo charged at the time that Drummond was running to help Velez by siphoning votes away from him. (Drummond was eventually knocked off the ballot because he had three or four different addresses and because his nominating petition signatures were disqualified.)
Velez likes to give the impression that he and Drummond barely know one another, but with prompting his memory improves. “I would see him a couple of times a year,” Velez said. “Let’s say he’s not an enemy.” Velez first said only Drummond allies Jerome Greene and Al Goodman had helped his electoral efforts, then suddenly remembered, "I think Drummond worked in one of my campaigns, as a spokesman in a TV ad.”
Blacks and Latinos in the Bronx may have separate agendas, but when it comes to getting funds out of Albany, every legislative seat counts. In 1984, according to Drummond associates, Velez asked Drummond if he’d like to be assemblyman in the Bronx’s 82nd district. (Velez denies this.) Drummond demurred since he didn’t know the politics in the area well enough. Instead, Larry Seabrook, Drummond's subordinate at Morrisania, won the seat with the support of Velez. (Velez confirms this.) Seabrook still holds the seat (Seabrook wasn’t the only Morrisania alum and Drummond pal to make it to Albany. Drummond’s deputy director at Morrisania, Aurelia Greene, is now a state assemblywoman. In 1990, she was cleared of charges of stealing a piano from a school, though she was fired by the chancellor, along with the rest of the District 9 board, for a litany of improprieties.)
In 1987, when Drummond was bounced off the King board, the man who came on to stage-manage things for him was one Felipe Ventegeat, a Columbia MBA who had previously worked for Velez at the big man’s Hunts Point Multi-Service Center.
NO TEXTBOOKS, NO
GRANTS, ALL THE
THINGS THAT MAKE
LIFE MISERABLE FOR
Ventegeat met Drummond when both worked at Freedom Foods, a school-lunch contractor. (Drummond was Freedom's vice-president of personnel.)
Velez helped in Drummond’s first school board campaign, according to Rachel Williams, Drummond’s campaign manager. Velez says people associated with him may have assisted Drummond, but he denies that he himself participated. "I have kept a promise over the years not to get involved in the local school elections,” Velez said, adding that the promise is “to my own conscience. I was working in many schools, and I didn’t want them to think I was trying to get control.”
However, when Drummond was first kicked off the District 12 board in 1987 he was replaced by Randy Glenn, who both worked on Velez’s first council campaign and has used Drummond as his personal accountant for many years. For more than two decades, Drummond and Velez have shared the same lawyer, Paul Bleifer. Since 1970 Bleifer represented the Martin Luther King Jr. Health Center’s board. At the same time he was Velez's attorney representing the Hunts Point Multi Service Center. Bleifer also confirmed that he represented the Latino board members of the Morrisania Community Corporation; that was during the period when Drummond was siphoning funds. In addition, Bleifer has long represented the annual Puerto Rican Day Parade and the Puerto Rican Community Development Corporation, both Velez entities.
Bleifer was evasive in discussing his connection with Drummond. He first made it appear that he did not know him well, then admitted otherwise. Bleifer also admitted, when asked, that one Drummond apartment, used to establish residency in District 12, is in a building that had been owned by Bleifer’s family. He further realized that he “might have” helped Drummond get the apartment.
Drummond, not surprisingly, has had even closer ties to black politicians. The closest is with State Senator Joe Galiber, whom Drummond met through his late godfather Al Goodman. A practicing lawyer, Galiber earlier represented Drummond’s longtime underling Arthur Richardson when Richardson was convicted of embezzling funds from a Morrisania subsidiary. Years later, after disgruntled King staffers met privately with Galiber to complain about the irregularities at the clinic, Drummond learned the names of the participants. According to one of them, King Center personnel director Margarita Morales, Drummond “went after us, one at a time.” Morales was fired shortly afterwards.
IN ADDITION TO friends in high places, Drummond enjoys friends in horizontal places. When Attorney General Robert Abrams went to court to evict Drummond from the King clinic board, he charged that the married father of two used his “intimate relationships” with a number of women to advance his political and financial
IN DISTRICT 12, THE
FOUND, AN ORDINARY
PERSON OFF THE
STREET COULD NOT
EVEN GET A PROPER
JOB APPLICATION FOR
agendas. Many became surrogates for him: he would place them in jobs, then they would vote according to his dictates.
Even with women who were not in his harem, he played the sexual card. At King Center meetings, for example, Drummond would slip lewd notes to Rachel Williams. “His behavior in that regard was unseemly—with the ladies,” recalled Hubert Irons of Morrisania. Irons noted that Drummond’s relationship with fiscal officer Amy Presley enabled him to milk Morrisania. Later on, Elsie Moncion and Diane Brooks, two “intimate social acquaintances,” as Abrams characterized them, served on the King clinic board while a third, Veronica James, worked at a nearby King satellite, where Drummond’s wife was also on the payroll. At the same time, Moncion and Brooks held jobs in District 12.
Matching Drummond in the ladies’ department was Gary Alston, a convicted felon, who joined Drummond on the District 12 school board and at the Martin Luther King health center. At King, Alston was a “consultant” who, a board associate said, kicked back a portion of his pay to Drummond. According to Rachel Williams, a big part of Alston's job was handing out federal surplus cheese. “You could get elected with cheese, and with summer jobs for the kids,” Williams said. “These are poor people.”
One of the married Alston’s paramours was Angela Pacheco, also married. In 1983 Alston survived an assassination attempt in which 10 bullets were pumped into him, then died a year later from a single shot fired by an unknown assailant. Pacheco then took up with Drummond. In 1986, Pacheco was elected to the District 12 school board on a Drummond slate. She also got deeply involved with heroin; on top of that, she and her husband became homeless. (Pacheco, an ex-District 9 employee, missed almost a full year of board meetings, appearing only occasionally outside district schools to demand money from staffers.)
At the same time the hardworking Drummond was seeing Pacheco, he was also hanging with Veronica James, who, having worked on Drummond’s 1983 school board campaign, was rewarded the next year with a job at the Martin Luther King Health Center and later became partner in his tax office. James eventually got elected to the District 12 school board on a Drummond slate, and, though she works for Child Wellfare, nevertheless voted not to remove principal Moolenaar for her failure to investigate the alleged rape of a student. In 1988, James accompanied Drummond, a Jesse Jackson delegate, to the Democratic Convention. (James did not return numerous messages left by the Voice.)
Drummond’s crowded social schedule fit perfectly into his modus operandi. Lovers were placed in fiduciary positions where they could assist him. In return, he found them paying jobs in community not-for-profits and the school system.
THE PERSONNEL TOUCH
PLATONIC ASSOCIATES of Drummond’s were similarly rewarded, “You throw down with us, the sky’s the limit,” he promises one man on tape, then tells him what will happen to another principal who failed to advance his agenda: “We’re gonna take her out of (her school) and put her in[sense] CS 102. Send her to Siberia.”
Those who threw down were protected. Jewel Moolenaar, one of the A-Team’s F-graded educators, had provided electoral assistance to the Drummond group. When she was temporarily removed from her principal job following the alleged rape mishandling, she was given a position in the district’s personnel office, where she processed job applications.
On the day the board was to vote on charges against her, Drummond associate Edward Cain called to inquire whether the son of a family friend had been hired. Moolenaar replied that she did indeed have a position, and to “tell him to come over.” Cain also asked the head of the latch-key program (for kids whose parents work) to hire his son, who had been recently arrested for drug possession.
The young man was staffing a category of employment created years earlier by a Drummond subordinate, Reverend Jerome Greene, when they were together at Morrisania. (In 1991, Greene pleaded guilty to larceny, admitting he used his District 9 school board position to get the city to pay for his electronics purchases.) Thanks to Greene, husband of assemblywoman Aurelia Greene (who also worked at Morrisania), community members without high school degrees or other qualifications could become hall monitors, teacher assistants, and health aides in city schools. Even more than the principal positions, these jobs are the lifeblood of Drummond’s patronage machine. The district has 660 paraprofessionals on the payroll (including Drummond’s wife), a city wide record.
"In District 12," The Stancik report found, “an ordinary person off the street could not even get a proper job application for these positions.” One personnel staffer mused about unwired job seekers, “I can say to them, ‘Thank you, have a nice day,’ but I was thinking. . . ‘You poor sucker.'”
More fortunate, thanks to his connections, was Bill Robinson, a drug addict who did political work for Drummond. In return Robinson got a school job; one day during working hours investigators watched him leave school to visit a methadone clinic. He returned to school only to leave for a well-known drug corner, where “he appeared to buy drugs” and then disappeared down an alley for awhile.
In addition to filling jobs, Drummond seized control of lucrative district programs, like dropout prevention, putting his person in charge of budgets drawn from state and federal funds. At one point, Drummond tells a soldier he’s after the “plum of the plums,” the position of director of Funded Programs. “That person is, she’s like a god,” he says in the Stancik report. “Boy—she’s like, a god! That’s what we want.”
Although Drummond must be concerned about the Stancik revelations, he’s still moving ahead. Once again on the District 12 school board, he can count on three of the nine votes. Beyond his own, he controls those of new members Ruth Poindexter and Roselyn A. Johnson. Johnson is described in the Stancik report as “a long time A-Team beneficiary” and a secretary at District 12 who handed out tickets and collected cash for Drummond’s fundraiser.
In January, District 12’s superintendent, Alfredo Mathew, committed suicide shortly after his own dirty dealings began to surface. Today, encou- ragingly, most observers believe acting superintendent Robert Henry is trying to clean up the district. But Henry is “out” on June 30, Drummond is quoted saying in the Stancik report: “It’s not in nobody’s best interest to give him a one year contract.”
KEN AND THE KNUCKLEHEADS
“KEN, HE CAN GO marching down the street like nothin’,” said Henry Thomas, a Drummond friend and head of Freedom Foods. “Ain’t nobody going to bother him. Once you get with Ken, you can rest assured. Those knuckleheads won’t even say a word.”
More specifically, law enforcement, from the district attorney to the FBI to the attorney general, has yet to take on the one-man cyclone. As for the impotence of school authorities, a spokesman for Chancellor Joseph Fernandez explained that because of civil rights laws district board members are never barred permanently from running for reelection. “Theoretically,” the spokesman said, “they’re starting with a clean slate.”
Drummond has erased his slate over and over. “See, I hate to take advantage of the system,” he once told an associate. “But you got to take advantage of the system.”
That system fattens the Drummonds and denies the honest citizens of the Bronx a chance to find work, to get their kids a good education, or to become leaders in turning the borough’s future around. Meanwhile, as the Stancik report found, even decent school employees go along with the sleaze, “not because they want to, but because they have no choice.”
Research assistance: Jodi Melamed and Meera Somasundaram