2008-02-22 / Front Page

Postmaster, Under Fire, Perhaps Returns!

By Nicholas Briano

Far Rockaway residents are once again frustrated with their postal service, because the agency that is mandated to deliver the mail fails to execute the basic operations that constitute its very existence.

George Buonocore, left, with Scott Klein at an RMAC Fall Festival two summers ago. The former postmaster, who left under a cloud last year, has once again been assigned to the Far Rockaway Post Office. George Buonocore, left, with Scott Klein at an RMAC Fall Festival two summers ago. The former postmaster, who left under a cloud last year, has once again been assigned to the Far Rockaway Post Office. The complaints roll in. Mail is lost or misdirected. Mail is left loose in building lobbies. Mail is returned to sender even though it has a valid address. Mail comes days or even weeks after it is posted. There are long lines at every post office on the peninsula. Only one window is open during high-demand times such as hol- idays and weekends. The offices are dirty. The clerks are often surly.

Locals say that the situation has been going on for a long time, back to the stewardship of Postmaster George Buonocore and his executive assistant, Scott Klein.

With that in mind, when residents learned this week that Buonocore, who has been gone from the office since last April, had returned to the still troubled post office, his name again became synonymous with postal inefficiency and consumer complaints.

Buonocore, however, who was "reassigned" last year from his position as Far Rockaway's postmaster to go on a "developmental detail," is back at his old stand, but sources say that he is not back as postmaster.

United States Post Office spokesperson Bob Trombley confirmed for The Wave this week that Buonocore hasn't returned to Far Rockaway to take over the postmaster's office.

At least, not for the present.

"George Buonocore has returned on a temporary administrative assignment," Trombley said. "He is not working in a managerial capacity."

When asked how long Buonocore was on this temporary assignment, and whether that assignment would lead to another stint as Far Rockaway's postmaster, Trombley declined to comment.

Although many blame Buonocore for Rockaway's postal blunders, both past and present, the fact is that the complaints continued unabated during the year that Buonocore was in exile, supposedly teaching his expertise to new postmasters.

Residents fear that Buonocore will once again take the reigns and make the problem even worse, as they say he did in years past.

Congressman Gregory Meeks, who spoke in opposition to Buonocore when he was in office last year, refuses to let this happen, whether or not Buonocore is eventually reinstated as postmaster.

"I am in the process of organizing a community postal advisory board comprised of representatives of the community and postal personnel," Meeks said in a written statement this week.

He continued to say that the advisory panel would meet, whoever the postmaster is, on a monthly basis to address any problems or concerns expressed by the community.

"The Rockaways have suffered for far too long with terrible service from our local post office," he said. "It is clear that the postmaster has little interest in providing adequate service to our community."

The initial problems and mismanagement under Buonocore to which Meeks refers, reached a boiling point last April. Buonocore was dismissed from his duties as postmaster and reassigned to a Jamaica post office, due to what one USPS official termed, "the good job he did handling the growth in Rockaway."

The USPS refused to cite any other reason for his departure, even though Meeks and other community officials expressed their outrage.

One employee, who spoke in anonymity, even claimed the Far Rockaway Post Office was like a "soap opera" while Buonocore was in charge.

The "soap opera" also included his top assistant and public relations specialist, Scott Klein.

Klein, a longtime Rockaway resident, was arrested and charged with grand larceny in 2006 for allegedly misusing a USPS credit card and spending over $4,800 in personal expenses.

There was even a sexual harassment claim aimed at one of the west end supervisors during Buonocore's fiveyear tenure. Those claims were eventually dismissed by a postal review board, but the incident still thickened the cloud of suspicion and inefficiency expanding inside the post office he was operating.

Many were surprised that Buonocore was back working in the office, whether in a management capacity or not.

In the meantime, Congressman Meeks encourages anyone to report inconsistencies to his staff while he prepares to implement the advisory board.

"I encourage my constituents to keep my office apprised of any further problems with the delivery of services."

Buonocore was not available for comment for this story.

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