On Wednesday February 12, 2014 at around 6pm we finally heard “nothing further” from both sides. Closing arguments were now compete and my 3020-a termination hearing was over. We were official off the record and what a record it was.
When my hearing first started on September 12, 2013it was originally slated to go only 8 days and be done by October. Instead, my case took 5 months to complete and 21 days of hearings.
The department went first and called in about 13 witnesses. The department’s narrative was that “all this happened because Portelos was passed up on a tech position at school and became enraged. What Really I sat and listened quietly as I was called a terrorist, an anti-semite, a racist and sexist among many other things. At this point it just rolls off my back.
My sister and wife came to the hearing and they had to hear it too. Luckily my wife, who is also teacher, works in a school where there is respect and collaboration. She doesn’t have to deal with administrators that are vindictive and target people. There were about 5 people who came to my public hearing almost every time. Most are retired teachers from the Movement of Rank-and-file Educators or MORE. I thank them all for their support. The department almost always had at least two lawyers and some other employees as seat fillers.
When my NYSUT attorney, Christopher Callagy, would tell me, a few days before, who the department’s next witness would be, I would just open up my files and pulled out my evidence. The great part was that I knew so much more about their witnesses, then they knew about their witnesses. The department lawyer may have seen the stack of papers in front of me during cross examination of their witnesses and think “What does Portelos have now An email A text message Facebook post A picture or recording”
If I did anything right it was to document. I mean my folder where I keep everything, in regards to this whole saga, is several gigabytes in size and contains over 4,000 files. If anything strange came up during testimony, I would do a quick search on my phone and pull up the evidence to counter it. I once even ran to Kinkos to print out emails contradicting a witness.
The department rested at the beginning of December. Chris started with a great opening and laid it out as I had told him and as their own witnesses testified to. We then started bringing witness in to back my case up. Teachers, paraprofessionals, PTA President, other parents, community members and the Parent Coordinator. Students weren’t able to come, because their parents didn’t want them to miss school. Understood. One witness after another came in and testified to what was really happening and happened at Berta Dreyfus IS 49.
There are over 3,500 pages of testimony in my case. One day I called Ubiqus
, the court reporting company, and asked how much they charge for these cases. The supervisor told me $3.50 per page. Some easy math tells us that just in transcripts alone, my case cost the taxpayers over $12,000. That’s enough to buy a class set of tablets. Children First. Always.
Between the lawyer’s salary, the arbitrator’s, the witnesses and the substitutes salary paid to cover for them, we are talking about a lot of taxpayer money.
Our estimates tell us that my whole saga, inclusive of salaries and investigations cost the taxpayer over half a million dollars!
The kicker is this started after I raised concerns about financial misconduct and misappropriation of funds. Hmmm…the irony in all this.
Now we wait for a decision. Maybe we’ll hear by the end of March. While we do, my other attorney, Bryan Glass esq. and I push forward with my Federal lawsuit.
Never Give Up.
Keep fighting…Keep digging.