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Akselrod exit ain’t so pretty

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District Manager Ben Akselrod’s sudden departure from Community Board 15 appears to be a lot stickier than at first believed. Fellow board members had nothing but praise for Akselrod after the district manager announced at the last meeting of Community Board 15 that he had decided to take a position with Queens-based social services provider Jackson Heights-Elmhurst Kehillah, Inc. But just a few days later, Community Board 15 Chair Theresa Scavo blasted Akselrod in a letter to Councilmember Mike Nelson, charging that the district manager had neglected his duties and was verbally abusive to women working at the board office. “I am truly sorry to have to report the breach of trust and professionalism on Mr. Akselrod’s part,” Scavo wrote in a letter to Nelson dated February 5. In addition to the abovementioned allegations, Scavo charged that Akselrod failed to carry out his duties as district manager. On one occasion, Akselrod allegedly failed to return phone calls to Verizon officials about the installation of fiber optic cables and upcoming street closings inside the district. On another occasion, Scavo charges that the district manger also failed to respond to queries from the Office of Management & budget concerning Community Board 15’s 2008 budget. Scavo described a history of friction between herself and Akselrod. “Mr. Akselrod could not accept any accountabi­lity,” Scavo wrote to Nelson. “His answer to my insistence that he check with me before attending events and meetings – most of which had little to do with our board – was met with this extraordinary comment: ‘You’re just a volunteer, I’m a paid employee. You can’t tell me what to do.’” Akselrod expressed shock when he heard about the charges leveled against him. “I believe I conducted myself professionally and did the work required,” Akselrod told this paper. “I believe that I did good work.” The former district manager also said that he offered to stay on the job as long as required. Initially, there was some question as to whether Akselrod would take the two-month vacation he had accrued during his time as district manger before officially resigning. But that would have meant that the board could not begin its search for a replacement until after that period had expired. Scavo has been adamant about starting the search immediately in order to avoid a repeat of the drawn-out fiasco that ensued following the departure of Akselrod’s predecessor, Paula Lupka. According to Akselrod, he only asked for a single day off to celebrate his wedding anniversary. “I asked how long do you want me to stay,” Akselrod said. “She [Scavo] basically said ‘you’re good to go.” Scavo disputes that account. “The chair said I could go that day,” Akselrod insisted. “I don’t know why she would say that.” Borough Hall reportedly told Akselrod that he had to first resign his position before he could collect on his vacation package. According to Scavo, Akselrod was not happy with that arrangement, but did return his Community Board 15 cell phone last week to Borough Hall. He officially resigned on February 9. “I wasn’t privy to the day- to-day operations of Community Board 15, or any of my other community boards, for that matter,” Nelson said in response to Scavo’s letter. “I couldn’t tell if Ben was doing a good job or not. Hopefully, they will get a good district manager who can work and play well with everyone there.” Grumblings about Akselrod’s sudden departure soon began to surface despite the reportedly warm send-off he received from fellow board members at the last meeting of Community Board 15. “He was under-worked and overpaid,” longtime board member Ed Eisenberg complained. According to Scavo, Akselrod enjoyed a 40 percent increase in salary while working as Community Board 15’s district manager when Jerry O’Shea was still chairperson, and compiled a list of potential political donors that he did not share with the board. “I have no idea what she’s referring to,” Akselrod said. “I live in the community of and plan to stay active in civic activities. I enjoy the community, but that should not be interpreted that I’m running for anything.” “Ben let the community down,” Scavo told Nelson. The next meeting of Community Board 15 at Kingsborough Community College will be a public hearing on the renaming of Corbin Place on February 26. The board will hold its general meeting the following evening. Both events will start at 7 p.m.

Posted 7:16 pm, October 10, 2011
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