Two separate cases and one plaintiff who refuses to give up.
Manuele Verdi, the assistant principal of P.S. 24 Spuyten Duyvil, is pressing forward with his federal and state court cases against the city education department for violating his free speech and legal protection as a whistleblower, and Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz for defamation.
The defamation case centers on Verdi’s claim Dinowitz publicly blamed him when the education department did not renew the lease for P.S. 24’s annex space at The Whitehall, located at 3333 Henry Hudson Parkway. The state legislator knew the statement was false, Verdi claimed, when Dinowitz reportedly first made the claim in 2015 at a parents association meeting, continuing to make those statements until 2016.
Verdi, according to his complaint, has no authority to negotiate leases, nor does any other school employee or administrator.
Charles Moerdler, who represents Dinowitz, sought a dismissal because the case “is devoid of any merit whatsoever.” Moerdler took an unusual step further when it came to Verdi’s attorney, Ezra Glaser, calling his actions unprofessional for filing and withdrawing the lawsuit against Dinowitz at least four times.
And now it seems Glaser is doing it again. In the face of the dismissal motions, Glaser told The Riverdale Press he plans to answer by refiling the complaint, and essentially hitting the reset button on the entire judicial process. When Moerdler learned of that from a Press reporter, he called for the court to sanction Glaser for continuing a lawsuit he labeled “utter nonsense” and a waste of the court’s time.
Glaser, however, maintains the truth is on Verdi’s side.
“We believe that there’s plenty of facts in the case to indicate that Dinowitz just lied and lied and lied repeatedly, publicly, about what the duties of a principal were,” Glaser said. “He just kept repeating the same thing.”
The two parties are scheduled to return to state court June 13.
The heart of Verdi’s complaint against the education department is the 2016 registration of incoming P.S. 24 students. It was there Verdi claims a Dinowitz staff member interfered in the process. When Verdi spoke out against it, he alleges the education department violated his right to free speech and legal protection as a whistleblower.
Verdi claims the Dinowitz staffer requested incoming families provide a third form of identification — a move Glaser said not only was illegal, but violated the privacy rights of 100 students and their families. He also alleges it was an effort to stop children of color from enrolling at the school.
A later internal investigation by the education department concluded former District 10 superintendent Melodie Mashel, who retired in 2016, allowed “non-school personnel” to take part in the process.
Although the education department still lists Verdi as P.S. 24’s assistant principal, he is not at the school. Verdi said he is recovering from an injury, declining to say when it took place or the nature of it.
Both Dinowitz and the education department have since asked judges in the separate cases to dismiss Verdi’s claims — an action both judges could be ruling on as early as this month.
In Verdi’s case against the education department, city attorneys also believe the claims are without merit. U.S. District judge Valerie Caproni gave Glaser until June 30 to amend the complaint or respond to the education department. Glaser said he planned to re-file, but declined to say how it would be changed.
Education department attorneys did not respond to requests for comment.