Stories & Grievances
Edwin Mendez-Santiago, NYC Commissioner of the Department for the Aging, Resigns and Then NYC Settles the Sexual Harassment Lawsuit of His Former Secretary
New York City will pay $225,000 to settle a lawsuit brought by a former secretary who accused the recently resigned commissioner of the city’s Department for the Aging of sexual harassment and discrimination. NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg tried to justify Mr. Mendez-Santiago's sudden departure as due to "personal reasons", but no one believes Bloomberg anymore. There is no oversight of any agency in NYC, and Commissioners are dropping like flies.
In the most corrupt city in the United States (sorry Chicago, we are bigger), corruption and fraud rule. Gone are management oversight, protection, benefits, and services for the young, old, disabled, poor, and middle class. Mike Bloomberg has served his constitutents well, however, and these loyal servants and votes are the elite of New York City's social circles and the world's top 1% in wealth.
All you have to do is look at the deaths from Deutsche Bank's fire, toppling cranes, and the Staten Island crash. In the latter incident Mr. Bloomberg took public money to defend in Court the person who should have been held accountable (but wasn't), Iris Weinshall, the former Commissioner of Transportation. Why wasn't she fired/held accountable for the 11 deaths in the Staten Island accident? She is the wife of Senator Chuck Schumer.
In New York City, Mike Bloomberg's friends, colleagues, and allies are above the law.
New York City Law Dept. Answer
Order of Dismissal
January 1, 2009
City Settles Sex Harassment Case at Department for Aging
By TRYMAINE LEE, NY TIMES
New York City will pay $225,000 to settle a lawsuit brought by a former secretary who accused the recently resigned commissioner of the city’s Department for the Aging of sexual harassment and discrimination, the city’s Law Department said on Wednesday.
The former secretary, Auritela Santos, filed the lawsuit in February against the city, the department and Edwin Méndez-Santiago, who resigned as the department’s commissioner on Dec. 12.
Ms. Santos, 38, who started working as Mr. Méndez-Santiago’s secretary in 2004, said that she was subjected to frequent sexual remarks and that he had sex with subordinates in his office while she was sitting at her desk nearby. She also said that he sent her violent and threatening e-mail messages when she rebuffed his advances, according to court papers.
Ms. Santos resigned in the summer of 2007.
Under the settlement agreement, the Department for the Aging agreed to pay Ms. Santos $69,000 in back pay. The city will also pay Ms. Santos an additional $156,000, including $39,000 in lawyers’ fees and $117,000 in damages.
“We believe the settlement is in the best interest of all parties,” said Connie Pankratz, a spokeswoman for the Law Department, which handled the case.
Mr. Méndez-Santiago, who denied Ms. Santos’s accusations in court papers, did not return a call to his home on Wednesday night.
Efforts to reach Ms. Santos and Doris Traub, a lawyer for Ms. Santos, were also unsuccessful.
As part of the settlement, neither the city nor Mr. Méndez-Santiago admitted any wrongdoing.
Ms. Santos’s case went unnoticed until Mr. Méndez-Santiago’s unexpected resignation, which occurred amid strong opposition to plans to overhaul programs for the elderly. At the time, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg attributed the departure to “personal reasons.”
The accusations against Mr. Méndez-Santiago tainted the Bloomberg administration’s near sparkling record of hiring strong administrators; nearly all of the administration’s senior officials have avoided scandal since Mr. Bloomberg took office in 2002.
Though Mr. Méndez-Santiago, 54, has long held the respect of advocates for the elderly, the allegations against him were too serious to weather, city officials have said.
According to the federal complaint against Mr. Méndez-Santiago, he sent sexually explicit e-mail messages to Ms. Santos to try to entice her into joining him on out-of-town trips, even though she told him repeatedly that she was married with three children. Ms. Santos also accused him of attempting to woo her with the promise that a friend of his would buy her a house in the Dominican Republic if she agreed to accompany the two of them and a female friend to the island.
When she resisted, according to the state complaint, Mr. Méndez-Santiago began sending Ms. Santos threatening messages.
The State Human Rights Division determined in August 2007 that Ms. Santos had probable cause to proceed with a legal claim against the commissioner. In February 2008, Ms. Santos filed her lawsuit.
Before Ms. Santos’s case came to light, there was speculation that Mr. Méndez -Santiago had resigned amid one of Mr. Bloomberg’s more controversial initiatives, which would have overhauled the city’s decades-old system of managing more than 300 senior centers. The mayor sought to create a more results-driven, business-oriented operation. The proposal was met with opposition from older citizens with most Council members also protesting it, and the mayor has since backed off from the plan.
After Mr. Méndez-Santiago’s resignation, Mr. Bloomberg quickly replaced him with a respected government veteran, Lillian Barios-Paoli. At the time, the mayor reiterated that Mr. Méndez-Santiago’s decision to leave the agency was for “totally personal reasons” that had “nothing to do with any policy.”
Michael Barbaro contributed reporting.
Sexual harassment suit alleges Former City Commissioner Edwin Mendez-Santiago had lust in his blood
RYAN STRONG AND THOMAS ZAMBITO, DAILY NEWS WRITERS
Monday, December 22nd 2008, 10:31 PM
Former City Commissioner Edwin Mendez-Santiago bragged about his passionate "gypsy" blood and his lust for Dominican women, according to a sexual harassment lawsuit filed in Manhattan Federal Court.
Mendez-Santiago's former secretary Auritela Santos claims her boss' sexually suggestive language and repeated come-ons forced her off the job at the Department of Aging.
She says the married Mendez-Santiago couldn't keep his hands to himself and had sex with female subordinates in his office, her lawsuit claims.
"Mendez-Santiago put his hands down the pants of a subordinate female employee in plaintiff's presence," the lawsuit adds.
Mendez-Santiago resigned from his $177,698-a-year post this month, saying he was leaving for personal reasons.
But court papers show that in recent months both sides have been discussing a possible payout to settle Santos' lurid harassment claims.
The talks have delayed the turnover of some 4,000 e-mails city lawyers are translating from Spanish to English, in which Santos says Mendez-Santiago used sexually suggestive language.
Santos says she was forced out of her job as Mendez-Santiago's secretary after she rejected his repeated advances, included a proposed tryst in Atlantic City in July 2006. When Santos refused, she said Mendez-Santiago became "hypercritical" of her work.
"I don't feel comfortable talking to the media," Santos said yesterday as she arrived at her Washington Heights apartment.
Santos said Mendez-Santiago talked about leaving his wife and professed that "Dominican women drove him crazy."
December 21, 2008
Sexual Harassment Claim Arises After Official Quits
By DAVID W. CHEN, NY TIMES
The commissioner of the city’s Department for the Aging, whose resignation on Dec. 12 was attributed by the mayor to “personal reasons,” has been accused by his former secretary in a federal lawsuit of sexual harassment and discrimination.
The lawsuit was filed in February, and followed an investigation by the New York State Division of Human Rights, which determined that the former secretary, Auritela Santos, had probable cause to proceed with a legal claim against the commissioner, Edwin Méndez-Santiago.
But the case went unnoticed until Mr. Méndez-Santiago resigned unexpectedly amid strong opposition to plans to overhaul programs for the elderly.
City lawyers have denied Ms. Santos’s allegations in court papers. City officials declined to comment, citing the continuing litigation. Ms. Santos said she did not want to discuss the case; her lawyer, Doris Traub, also declined to comment.
The case appeared to take a turn on Nov. 20, when city lawyers sought another extension to reply to Ms. Santos’s request for more than 4,000 e-mail messages, presumably involving Mr. Méndez-Santiago, many of them in Spanish. Ms. Santos said some of the e-mail messages were sexual or even violent in nature, according to court documents.
In a letter to Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein of Federal District Court in Manhattan, Eamonn F. Foley, a lawyer for the city, said, “The parties believe that it currently is an opportune time to consider possible settlement.”
The accusations against Mr. Méndez-Santiago represent a rare moment of awkwardness for an administration that has generally won plaudits for the quality — and longevity — of its cabinet members. Almost none of the administration’s senior officials have been touched by even a whiff of personal scandal since Mr. Bloomberg was elected in 2002.
The issue of sexual harassment is one that Mr. Bloomberg has had to deal with before; the financial services company he founded, Bloomberg L.P., has been sued on numerous occasions since the 1990s by employees claiming discrimination and sexual harassment.
One senior city official who knows Mr. Méndez-Santiago said the allegations seemed out of character; a 54-year-old family man, he had a good reputation among community activists prior to his being chosen as commissioner in December 2001. Still, the allegations were serious enough that Mr. Méndez-Santiago had little choice but to resign, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the pending litigation.
“I heard it was the harassment charges,” said the official, explaining the reason behind Mr. Méndez-Santiago’s departure, which takes effect on Jan. 1. “I heard it was ugly.”
According to complaints filed with the State Human Rights Division and in federal court, Ms. Santos, now 38, became Mr. Méndez-Santiago’s secretary in 2004. He made frequent sexual remarks and rated the physical appearance of female employees, saying that one was so loathsome that he had lost his appetite, according to the complaint.
Mr. Méndez-Santiago, according to the federal complaint, had “physical and/or sexual relations with subordinate female employees in his office, while plaintiff had to sit at her desk directly outside his office.” And he sent sexually explicit e-mail messages to Ms. Santos to try to entice her into joining him on out-of-town trips, despite the fact that she told him repeatedly that she was married and had three children.
Undeterred, Mr. Méndez-Santiago said that a close friend would “buy plaintiff a house in the Dominican Republic if she agreed to accompany the two of them on a trip to that location with a female friend,” the federal complaint states.
But when she resisted, according to the state complaint, Mr. Méndez-Santiago began sending Ms. Santos threatening e-mail messages. “The e-mails had a hostile tone to them,” the complaint said. “These e-mails were written in Spanish, and he would tell me to warn people of his propensity for violence.”
By the summer of 2007, the federal complaint says, Ms. Santos was unable to continue working in such an environment and left the agency. The State Human Rights Division determined in August 2007 that probable cause for a case existed, and in February this year, Ms. Santos filed her federal lawsuit.
For the better part of the last year, Mr. Méndez-Santiago had been involved in one of Mr. Bloomberg’s more controversial initiatives: revamping the city’s decades-old system of managing more than 300 senior centers. The policy sought to incorporate a business-oriented, results-driven approach that has been a Bloomberg hallmark.
But older citizens and most of the City Council protested. So when Mr. Méndez-Santiago left so abruptly, some advocates and council members speculated that Mr. Méndez-Santiago had misgivings about the policy.
The fact that Mr. Bloomberg quickly named a replacement on Wednesday — a well-respected government veteran, Lilliam Barrios-Paoli — only cemented that belief. So, too, did the announcement on Friday that the administration was scrapping the plan.
But Mr. Bloomberg brushed aside such speculation during a news conference on Wednesday to introduce Ms. Barrios-Paoli.
“He left for totally personal reasons, and it had nothing to do with any policy whatsoever of the Department for the Aging,” he said. “Never even came up. He did a good job. I’m sorry he chose for personal reasons to resign.”