Defamation Lawsuit – “Don’t Tread on Me”

2012-03-22 16.37.41

Apparently placing the Gadsden Flag on my STEM Lab Door was not enough to warn those plotting against me to “back off” and tread carefully. I placed it on the door as soon as I felt like something was brewing. I remembered my Social Studies teacher Mr Bruns at Port Richmond High School slam his fist on the desk and state “Don’t Tread on Me!” as he coveredtheAmerican Revolution.Apparentlythe coiled snake, ready to strike, with warning rattle was just not enough. They didn’t head the warning and here we are a year later. Principal Linda Hill having to answer several hours of questioning, under oath, on April 19th and these two union colleagues, who came after me, as they plotted against the principal behind her back, in a suit as well. NYC DOE attorney’s called me to ask for an extension and respond by May 8, 2013. I agreed. I’m wondering if the DOE will represent these two.


Anyone else want to do some treading Now that both were served, here is the redacted version of complaint.


supreme court of the state of new york

county of richmond








verified cOMPLAINT

iNDEX nO. _____________


Plaintiff, Francesco Portelos, pro se, as and for his verified complaint, alleges as follows:



  1. This is an action for defamation against Defendants for making and publicizing false statements that have damaged Plaintiffs reputation, future employment prospects, and caused emotional distress and other damages.


  1. Plaintiff Francesco Portelos is a Science Technology Engineering and Math teacher with a Bachelors of Science degree in Civil/Environmental Engineering and a Masters degree in Science Education and an employee of the New York City Department of Education (NYCDOE). He began working as a teacher for the NYCDOE since May 2007 at Berta Dreyfus IS 49 in Staten Island, New York.
  2. Defendant Richard Candia is a science teacher at Berta Dreyfus IS 49. At the time the defamatory statements were made against Plaintiff, Defendant Candia was also the schools United Federation of Teachers Chapter Leader.
  3. Defendant Susanne Abramowitz is a special education math teacher at Berta Dreyfus IS 49. At the time the defamatory statements were made against Plaintiff, Defendant Abramowitz also held the title of School Leadership Team (SLT) Chairperson.


  1. Venue lies in the County of Richmond pursuant to CPLR Rule 506 because it is where the defamatory statements were made against Plaintiff.


  1. On January 26, 2012, at or about 7:30 a.m., Plaintiff requested that the Defendants meet with him in Room 131 of Berta Dreyfus Intermediate School 49. The purpose of the meeting was to help mediate and ease some concerns that Plaintiff felt he was experiencing after he raised issues that the Defendants should have addressed at the SLT, such as creating school goals and aligning with the budget, which is mandated by state and local laws and regulations. During the meeting, the Plaintiff raised concerns about the SLT and was yelled at and cursed at by Susanne Abramowitz with statements like Youre an idiot, youre such and idiot!, You threw me under the bus!, Youre full of —-!
  2. On or about February 1, 2012, Principal Linda Hill, the principal of Berta Dreyfus I.S. 49, summoned Plaintiff to her office for the first two disciplinary hearings of his career. At the hearing, Principal Hill and Assistant Principal Joanne Aguirre presented to the Plaintiff two official New York City Department of Education (NYCDOE) witness statement forms. The forms were filled out by the Defendants and made false accusations about Plaintiff calling Susanne Abramowitz a —- and being aggressive during the mediation meeting the Plaintiff had with the Defendant(s). The statements also falsely stated that Plaintiff exhibited irrational and erratic behavior for weeks. The forms were dated January 27, 2012, the day after the meeting with Defendants. Principal Hill then presented the Plaintiff with a copy of an email she received from Defendant Richard Candia. In that email, Defendant Richard Candia forwarded a message the plaintiff sent to union members about union matters to the principal with the false heading He [plaintiff] sent this to the entire staff..
  3. On or about March 13, 2012, a School Leadership Team (SLT) meeting took place at Berta Dreyfus IS 49. Plaintiff, a member of the SLT, arrived late due to jury duty. Upon his arrival, the Plaintiff was notified by another SLT member that Defendant, Susanne Abramowitz, who also held the title of SLT Chairperson, falsely accused the plaintiff of causing a disruption in the school and working against the goals of team. Without the plaintiff being present, Susanne Abramowitz cast a vote to have him removed.
  4. On or about March 26, 2012, emails from defendant Richard Candia to Principal Linda Hill surfaced. The emails falsely accused the Plaintiff of hacking computers and accounts as well as berating Defendant Susanne Abramowitz during a union meeting.
  5. On or about April 25, 2012, as Plaintiff was leaving for the day, he found an unapproved copy of the April 2012 SLT meeting minutes and a copy of the March 2012 SLT minutes. The minutes were placed in the staff mailboxes by Defendant Abramowitz. Both copies contained false information, such as the Plaintiff was holding the schools website ransom in turn for the removal of disciplinary letters in his file.
  6. On or about April 26, 2012, Plaintiff, who had a clean and stellar teaching record prior to January 26, 2012, was prevented from passing through the school lobby and removed from the school building. Plaintiff was reassigned to a temporary reassignment office, located over twenty miles away and has been out of the classroom for over 280 calendar days.
  7. On or about June 14, 2012, Plaintiff met with his attorney and investigators from the NYC Special Commissioner of Investigation (SCI). The investigators inquired about over eighteen allegations made about Plaintiff. Approximately nine of them were false allegations made by defendant Richard Candia.
  8. The official witness statements are coded, with a control number, and become a part of public record. They can be used to discipline a pedagogue and added to their official personnel file along with letters of discipline.
  9. Official notices of reassignment are sent from the NYCDOE Human Resources department. Upon information and belief, the records become part of the employees personnel file and part of public record.
  10. The witness statements falsely assert that Plaintiff exhibited behavior unbecoming of a pedagogue. Plaintiff, who aspired to move up to higher positions in education, such as superintendent, has been falsely labeled as a loose cannon.
  11. One email, sent to Principal Linda Hill, by Richard Candia, on January 27, 2012, falsely accuses Plaintiff of sending union related material to the entire staff without permission, which implies Plaintiff was insubordinate to his superiors. The false accusation led to a disciplinary letterthat stained the plaintiffs stellar record as a pedagogue.
  12. Another email, sent to Principal Linda Hill, by Richard Candia, on January 27, 2012, falsely accuses the plaintiff of hacking computers, email accounts and verbally bashing another staff member at a meeting. These statements are entirely untrue and intended to defame Plaintiff.
  13. The SLT minutes, written and distributed by defendant Susanne Abramowitz, falsely accuse Plaintiff as holding ownership of a school website, the Plaintiff created, hostage in turn for removal of disciplinary letters from his personnel file. This statement is also entirely untrue and intended to defame Plaintiff.
  14. Defendant Richard Candia made false accusations to the Special Commissioner of Investigation. The allegations caused the removal of plaintiff from his position as a classroom teacher. This caused Plaintiff to lose the ability and authorization to work all after school activities, summer school and any extra paying per session activities until he is released and returned back to his position. Prior to Plaintiffs removal he stayed after school for tutoring, worked on a grant program, and afterschool JCC Beacon program every day of the work week.
  15. News of Plaintiffs reassignment, from his teaching position, eventually made international headlines with headings such as Teacher in Rubber Room paid to do nothing.
  16. Plaintiff never authorized the Defendants to publish statements about him to a third party or to the media.
  17. Upon information and belief, Defendant(s) do not have legal privilege to publish false statements found in the defamatory notices to a third party.
  18. Defendant(s) willfully and maliciously made the false statements on official witness statements, emails, SLT minutes and allegations submitted to NYCSCI.
  19. Defendant(s)’ false have caused Plaintiff to suffer loss of after school tutoring, SLT stipend, after school teaching, summer school, undue stress and potential prevention of promotion.
  20. For example, Plaintiff was a student at the CUNY College of Staten Islands Education Leadership program to obtain a license as a school and district administrator. Part of the program entailed Plaintiff shadowing and meeting with educators and administrators of other schools. Plaintiff was not accepted in schools he requested to complete assignments in, could not complete the requirements, and received an incomplete as a grade for the courses, thereby preventing Plaintiff from completing the program. One administrator, from a school, who was aware of Plaintiffs removal, was unwilling to accept him for even two days of shadowing.
  21. Plaintiffs name can be searched on any internet search engine and many websites explain his removal from class and attendance of a NYC Department of Education reassignment center, known widely as a Rubber Room.
  22. Plaintiff has requested to attend per session activities and was told reassigned teachers are not eligible for professional development.

FIRST CAUSE OF ACTION Defamation Against Plaintiff

  1. The witness statements, emails, SLT minutes, news article and allegations contain false statements regarding Plaintiff, such as he is a loose cannon, is a computer hacker, insubordinate and paid to do nothing.
  2. Defendant(s) published such false statements to third parties without privilege or authorization.
  3. Defendant(s) negligently, recklessly, willfully and/or maliciously published such false statements.
  4. As a result of Defendant(s) defamatory actions, Francesco Portelos has been damaged in an indeterminate amount.
  5. Defendant(s)’ actions constitute defamation per se, in that Francesco Portelos has been exposed to public contempt, ridicule, aversion or disgrace.
  6. Defendant(s)’ actions constitute defamation per se, in that the witness statements, emails, SLT minutes associate Francesco Portelos with aggression, dishonesty, misconduct, or unfitness in conducting his professional services and his livelihood.

WHEREFORE, Plaintiff demands judgment as follows:


  1. Against Defendants for defamation of Francesco Portelos, in an amount to be determined at trial;
  2. For an injunction against Defendant(s) enjoining Defendant(s) from publishing further defamatory material;
  3. The costs and disbursements of this action; and
  4. Such other and further relief as to which this Court may seem just and equitable.

Dated: Staten Island, New York

February __, 2013



[name and address and phone]


Not hand written as reported by Staten Island Advance –Staten Island teacher’s suit says pair fit him for ‘rubber’ boot’

About Francesco Portelos

Parent and Educator fighting for the student and the teacher.
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