Matronage in Brooklyn

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A son should be willing to do anything for his mother, but East New York school board member DeCosta Headley, Jr. has taken familial fealty one step farther: He’s voted mama a job as a lunchroom aide.

On Nov. 28, Headley and five other Community School Board 19 members voted to give Martha Berry a job at P.S. 328. To prevent nepotism and corrupt hiring practices, the state legislature stripped school boards of hiring power earlier this year.

But the boards are still required to vote in, by a two-thirds majority, any potential employee who “is related within a third degree of consanguinity” with a board member. Surprisingly, the regulation contains no prohibition against members okaying their relatives once the matter comes to a vote.

“It’s absolutely crazy,” admits one central staffer at board headquarters.

Headley, the son of controversial Democratic District Leader DeCosta Headley, Sr., says he acted ethically. “I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that,” he told City Limits. “That’s the law. You vote. It happens all the time here with board members. Several board members have voted on family members.”

Calls to District 19 Superintendent Robert Riccobono, who initiated the appointment, were not returned.

When asked if he ever considered recusing himself, Headley responded, “No, it’s just an aide job assisting kids in the lunchroom.”

This isn’t the first time Headley’s attitude towards public sector paychecks has raised eyebrows. Last summer he was dumped from Manhattan Borough President Ruth Messinger’s staff after it was disclosed that he was double-dipping by also working on the staff of Brooklyn State Senator John Sampson. That practice was not technically illegal, either. Headley is currently an aide to Congressman Ed Towns, a close political ally of his father.

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