El Gato and the other new hire

blindsided

el gatoHere’s a work story from 2000, give or take a year, that I wish had gone better, about a new hire.

First, I have to explain that, for a brief time around the turn of the century, my department, the New York Small Business Development Center, was taken over by something called the Institute for Entrepreneurship. It happened because IE had political clout.

There was a kickoff in which New York State Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno rambled on. It was the evening of November 10, in 1999, I believe. We were all required to show up and stand around looking enthused, about what, je ne sais pas, the night before a holiday.

Felix Strevell, a former barber who inexplicably had became NYS Deputy Secretary of State headed the IE. Ostensibly, the entity was supposed to be a conduit “through which SUNY has sought public grants and private donations to expand academic research and development that could help small businesses.” But there were about 24 employees, and most of them had not much to do.

The contempt for which IE held SBDC showed up in an organizational chart I saw and wish I had copied. Every one of the IE folks was on the chart, but the entirety of the SBDC, which had been operating for a decade and a half, was in a box on the bottom.

For the most part, we at SBDC kept our heads down and did our valuable work. Occasionally, though, El Gato, as I referred to him, wanted our then-state SBDC director, Jim King to do things that weren’t allowable. Even through closed doors, one could hear the arguments. Jim King, BTW, was not related to Robert King, who was then Chancellor of all of SUNY. Robert King’s wife, not incidentally, worked part-time for the IE, doing who knows what.

The crux of the matter

The local SBDC center in Albany needed to hire an advisor to counsel potential entrepreneurs. I was the chair of the committee, which was fine; I’d done it before. This involved calling the meetings, designing the procedure, and doing the paperwork that SUNY required in terms of our process. We came up with a suitable candidate, who I’ll call CC.

Then, another member of the committee, who I’ll call Holly, said we had to hire someone else as well. What? It wasn’t anyone who was already on the list of candidates. Holly had the resume, and she expected that I, as chair, would sign off on them. I wasn’t about to do that. So SHE signed off on the mystery candidate. I told one of my superiors about it, but they felt there wasn’t much to do about it.

What I WISH I had done was to take down the name of the bogus employee and report it. But to whom? There were a few mid-level, long-term SUNY Central employees I could have, should have consulted. By the time it occurred to me this strategy, I didn’t have the bogus candidate’s name. Though, as I look back on it, they probably could have figured it out from the date of service. I was blindsided and didn’t figure out a better way to respond.

Comeuppance

By the way, El Gato was canned in 2001, and soon thereafter, the SBDC was released from the yoke of the IE. In 2007, El Gato admitted to having committed fraud, “including using his corporate credit card to pay for a trip to Disney World, bringing his father along on two business trips to China, and arranging for a $95,000 pay raise to which he was not entitled.”

He continues to have legal trouble. El Gato was convicted in 2017 of perjury, in giving false testimony about his personal and family expenditures.

Eh. Twenty years later, this still bugs me.

Author: Roger

I'm a librarian. I hear music, even when it's not being played. I used to work at a comic book store, and it still informs my life. I won once on JEOPARDY! - ditto.

2 thoughts on “El Gato and the other new hire”

  1. I got to the article links without opening an account. The Chronicle allows for a finite number of freebies, as does the BizJournal. But here’s the middle story:

    The former executive director of a publicly financed nonprofit institute founded by the State University of New York admitted on Monday to having committed fraud, including using his corporate credit card to pay for a trip to Disney World, bringing his father along on two business trips to China, and arranging for a $95,000 pay raise to which he was not entitled, according to the Times Union of Albany, N.Y.

    The official, J. Felix Strevell, led the Institute for Entrepreneurship — through which SUNY has sought public grants and private donations to expand academic research and development that could help small businesses — from 1999 until he quit, in July 2001. He pleaded guilty on Monday in U.S. District Court in Albany to one count of mail fraud, and agreed, as part of a 20-page plea, to pay the state $111,000 in restitution, according to the newspaper. He could face up to five years in prison and a fine of $250,000 when he is sentenced, in August.

    After Mr. Strevell resigned, the controversy surrounding him and how the institute’s funds were being used became an embarrassing issue for some Republican leaders in the state, including the governor at the time, George E. Pataki, who had supported the institute’s creation, according to the Times Union. —Sara Hebel

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