2007-04-13 / Front Page

Post Office Saga Continues

Politicians Step In Amid Arrest, Retaliation Charges
By Howard Schwach

By Howard Schwach

Postmaster George Buonocore, right, with Scott Klein at a 2003 Chamber of Commerce meeting at The Wharf. 
Postmaster George Buonocore, right, with Scott Klein at a 2003 Chamber of Commerce meeting at The Wharf. More information about the massive shake-up in the Far Rockaway Post Office and its satellite offices throughout the peninsula came to light this week after a front-page story in last week's edition of The Wave.

One long-time postal employee, who asked not to be identified for fear of retribution, termed life in the Far Rockaway Post Office a "daily soap opera that seems to have no end."

Postmaster George Buonocore is now working in the Jamaica Post Office, at least for the time being.

Pat McGovern, a spokesperson for the United States Postal Service (USPS) in Queens, told The Wave on Monday that Buonocore "still holds the office of Far Rockaway Postmaster" and that he is on a "developmental detail that will allow him to expand his horizons."

McGovern said that Buonocore will "probably" return to Far Rockaway eventually, although no date has been set.

She added that the great number of complaints about the failure to deliver the mail properly that came in over the past few months have been addressed and that "there has been a great reduction of complaints" since the new postmaster, Diane Duncan, took over the post.

Congressman Gregory Meeks, however, says that Buonocore will probably not return to the Far Rockaway Post Office.

"There were so many complaints about postal service that it was clear that Buonocore is incompetent," Meeks said.

After several community meetings and "Buonocore's apparent cavalier attitude, he had to be replaced," Meeks added.

When Meeks was told of the USPS spokesperson's contention that Buonocore was simply reassigned for a period of time, Meeks said that he will not be reassigned to Far Rockaway.

He added that he is forming a community advisory group to oversee the local post office.

"We need better postal service in Rockaway," Meeks concluded.

Scott Klein, a clerk who has functioned as a public relations specialist for Buonocore over the past few years, has been arrested in connection with his alleged misuse of a USPS credit card as well as with a large amount of missing stamps, according to the Nassau County Police Department and a spokesperson for Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice.

A Nassau Police official said that Klein, who lives in Elmont, was arrested by its Crimes Against Property Bureau for grand larceny that occurred in Oceanside, Long Island from May through September of 2006. The report says that Klein, 38, while working as a supervisor for the USPS, improperly used a Post Office Visa Card that was provided only for work-related travel, for other, undisclosed purposes. The theft, according to the police, amounted to more than $4,000.

Klein was arrested on March 29 and arraigned the next day.

According to the Nassau County District Attorney, the charge of grand larceny is a D Felony that could bring up to four years in prison if Klein is convicted.

While Klein told The Wave that he could not comment on his case, a source close to Klein said that the arrest was all a "misunderstanding" that arose from the use of the credit card to secure a rental car in 2006.

"This is all a comedy of errors," the source told The Wave this week. "By error the clerk who took the car back recorded a credit card charge rather than a payment in cash for the car's use."

Klein's spokesperson said that the postal employee is "in limbo," until his next court date on May 15, and that he has not been fired. The source said that Klein expects to be back working in the Far Rockaway Post Office when the case against him is finally settled.

A spokesperson for Brian Kane, who was a supervisor in the Rockaway Park Post Office on Beach 114 Street and Beach Channel Drive, came to The Wave to report that Kane was on a self-imposed sick leave because charges were leveled against him because he had disciplined carriers for not doing their jobs.

Veronica Kane, the postal supervisor's wife, said that the employees made the false accusations against her husband because "they were not doing their jobs and he disciplined them."

She provided documentation that, in one case, Kane admonished a carrier for failure to deliver the day's mail to customers on her route. He ordered her to go back out with the mail.

When she refused, his wife said, Kane suspended her for two weeks.

The next day, Kane's wife charged, there were allegations that Kane was having an affair with another carrier.

Kane's wife added that the union shop steward, Antoinette Pinola spread the rumors that the affair was ongoing to discredit the supervisor.

Pinola also reportedly alleged in a complaint that Kane flashed her in the post office.

Papers provided by Veronica Kane, however, show that an arbitrator dismissed those charges as being unfounded.

In fact, documents show that all of the accusations made against Kane by disgruntled employees were unfounded.

Kane plans to go back to work shortly, his wife said, but he has asked to be reassigned outside of Far Rockaway and its satellites.

In an interview with The Wave, Pinola repeated the charges against Kane and said she herself has been brought up on charges of threatening to shoot a supervisor at the Far Rockaway Post Office, a fact that had been reported to The Wave by another Post Office source. That case will go to arbitration shortly, according to the source.

Joann Shapiro, the chief of staff for Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer, says that her office has been hearing "serious complaints" for several years.

She said that in her personal opinion, there is "a pattern of retaliation against supervisors" in Far Rockaway.

"There seems to be an organized effort to send a message to supervisors that says, 'If you make us work, we'll get you,'" Shapiro said.

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