Pamela Gluckin after she plead quilty from charges stemming with...

Pamela Gluckin after she plead quilty from charges stemming with the Roslyn school district, Nassau County Court, Mineola. (Nov. 10, 2005) Credit: Newsday Photo/Karen Wiles Stabile

This story was originally published in Newsday on May 11, 2004

She began her career with the Roslyn public schools in 1990, with an associate's degree in accounting from Suffolk County Community College and a string of ordinary bookkeeping jobs on her resume.

But Pamela Gluckin's work ethic and winning personality stood out. The mother of two cheerfully juggled school and a full-time job, earning bachelor's and master's degrees and an administrator's license.

Nine years, three degrees and three promotions after she was first hired, the woman who started out as a $44,000-a-year school district treasurer became the assistant superintendent for business and finance, pulling down $160,000 a year. Almost universally admired in the district, Gluckin was charming, tireless and solicitous, say parents and officials.

"I promoted her because of her energy, her competence, her interpersonal skills - it was all there," said Superintendent Frank Tassone, who worked with Gluckin for a decade. "She worked very, very hard. She was efficient and effective."

She was so efficient, school officials now say, that she found ways to exploit the system, inventing phony companies and using district credit cards to embezzle up to $1 million during her 12-year tenure.

She was so effective, officials charge, that some of her schemes went undetected even after the school board caught her the first time in 2002 when, rather than involving police, they forced her to retire a few months later after repaying $250,000.

But the district's quick and quiet solution began to unravel in February, when an anonymous letter about the embezzlement began circulating around the community, forcing the school board to publicly disclose the full story behind Gluckin's departure and explain why the allegations were never reported.

Worse still, the letter, also sent to the school district and the Nassau County district attorney, contained a startling new accusation: Pamela Gluckin hadn't misappropriated $250,000 from the Roslyn public schools. She'd taken more.

Now, with school board and budget elections a week away, a district accustomed to crowing about its national rankings and SAT scores is mired in just the sort of embarrassing public debacle it had hoped to avoid.

A district attorney's investigation is under way, the school board is suing Gluckin for $1 million and officials now admit that their zeal to protect the reputation of their community and its schools has cost them the public's confidence and far more money than they thought.

"If we knew everything then that we know now ... there is no question that we would have followed a different course," Tassone recently told the board. "In retrospect, we know we made a mistake."

But the district's explanation has done little to restore faith among some residents, who have vowed to take their displeasure to the voting booths next Tuesday. "A lot of us feel there's no way we're going to pass this school budget," David Weinstein said at a recent school board meeting. "If we lost a million bucks ... what does that say about the kind of management we have?"

Gluckin, 58, who surrendered her administrator's license and retired after the district first discovered problems, did not return repeated calls seeking comment. Her attorney, Victor Mevorah of Garden City, declined to comment. The district's lawsuit charges that Gluckin, her husband and her son all were involved in the alleged fraud. Two weeks ago, district attorneys got a temporary restraining order preventing Gluckin from liquidating assets, including an oceanfront home in the Hamptons they believe was financed at least in part with school money. The amount of the alleged fraud remains under investigation.

Parents and officials who worked with her said Gluckin - well-turned-out in designer suits - was always ready to spend a few extra minutes at a PTA meeting or offer colleagues a good deal on a car from her salesman husband, Harvey.

"We loved her," said one parent leader. "She was always so nice. At our meetings, if you didn't understand something, she'd explain it to you 10 times over if she had to. As much as we loved her, that's how devastated we are about what she did."

No one wanted to believe it when the first hints of impropriety surfaced in the summer of 2002, as Gluckin approached her third anniversary as the district's chief financial officer.

By then, Gluckin, who lives in a waterfront home in Bellmore, was driving a Jaguar with a vanity plate that read "DUNENUTN" and owned oceanfront property in Westhampton Beach and Florida - not the sorts of things that stand out in one of the wealthiest school districts in the state.

"She never appeared to me to be ridiculously extravagant," said the district's auditor, Andrew Miller.

But during a routine annual audit of the district's books for the 2001-02 year, Miller said he uncovered a few "curiosities" - about $10,000 worth of payments that didn't seem right.

"Not a material amount of money" in the context of a $70-million-plus budget, but enough to raise suspicion.

A seller's suspicions

Not long after that, a worker from an eastern Suffolk County building supplies store contacted the district independently with some nagging concerns about unusual activity on its credit cards - concerns he said he first shared with a district official in early 2002, according to sources close to the case.

It might be nothing, the employee said, but it seemed strange that the Roslyn public school system was buying large amounts of construction materials from a store nearly 50 miles away, according to the sources.

What's more, the goods weren't being delivered to Roslyn, according to the sources: They were going to an address in Center Moriches that school officials would later discover was the home of Gluckin's son, John McCormick Jr., a contractor. McCormick also did not return calls seeking comment.

Over Columbus Day weekend, Miller called Tassone, who was vacationing in Rhode Island, with the news and arranged to take a closer look at the district's expenditures.

"I really thought it could not be true," Tassone said. "I was overwhelmed."

A few nights later, after the district office had closed, Miller and four accountants from his firm spent six hours examining accounts payable records for the previous five years, he said.

When they finished about 2 a.m., they emerged with what Miller said was evidence of massive fraud. Pamela Gluckin had used - or let her family use - district credit cards to buy everything from gas to building supplies for about $250,000, according to the suit. Stunned, Tassone and the school board made fast work of the problem. Tassone and Miller confronted Gluckin, who they say tearfully admitted the theft. They demanded restitution, her resignation and surrender of her administrator's license.

She was gone the next day. Her departure was so abrupt and mysterious that people began to ask questions. Pamela Gluckin, the district said then, left for personal and medical reasons. Some PTAs even sent her flowers, wishing a quick recovery.

"She was ill, I really do believe she was ill because I found it so different from her personality as I knew it," Tassone said. "I can understand why people might be upset now ... but we really thought in the end it was handled. We thought it was done."

The second wave

Within about a month, the board had its money back and written opinions from two lawyers that it was under no legal obligation to publicly disclose its findings or notify authorities.

"We were very concerned as to what our obligations were," said school board president William Costigan. "She was a trusted employee and we were confronted with the fact that she had embezzled money. We truly believed we did what was in the best interests of the school community."

It was, board members now concede, a costly miscalculation.

After she was forced into retirement, Gluckin and her husband built a home on one lot on Dune Road in Westhampton Beach and sold it, property records show. Then, they purchased another lot a few doors away and began work on a second, bigger home. The couple was about to sell it, school officials said, when the district learned that its internal investigation and audit in 2002 had uncovered only a fraction of Gluckin's alleged fraud.

Based on the tip in the anonymous letter, the district attorney's office asked the board to pay for a forensic audit covering Gluckin's entire tenure. This time, according to the lawsuit, Miller discovered a second type of abuse - payments to at least two phony vendors that could be traced directly to Gluckin.

One company identified in the lawsuit, Computer & Technology Services, is owned by Gluckin and lists her Bellmore home as its primary address, according to county records. The other, HSG Management Consulting, county records show, is owned by Harvey S. Gluckin.

"The first $250,000 came from one pattern and it was all the same pattern," Miller said. "This was a completely different method. This was not routine. It was well-conceived. You can work around any system if you know enough about it and want to do it."

Still, the episode continues to dominate board meetings.

"I worry about the morale of this district," said Amy Katz, co-president of the Harbor Hills Elementary School PTA. "Everybody's angry. ... But don't take it out on the kids."

 

 

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