A 21-year Correction Officer has announced his intention to run against the current head of the Correction Officers' Benevolent Association, Elias Husamudeen.
In a Facebook video declaring his candidacy, Benny Boscio, the COBA board’s sergeant-at-arms, was critical of Mr. Husamudeen’s leadership, arguing that he has not been sufficiently transparent. “Secrecy is no way for a leader to run this organization,” he said in the video, which was posted on Jan. 21.
He referred to a Jan. 15 meeting of the union’s delegates at which Mr. Husamudeen shared a tentative contract agreement with them “for the first time” and then gave them just a few hours to vote on whether to send it to the union’s rank and file for approval.
“He gave them less than two hours to make a decision on that contract,” he said in the video. “That’s just plain disrespectful. It disrespectful to the delegates, it’s disrespectful to the executive board and it’s disrespectful to you, the COBA member.”
Mr. Husamudeen said Mr. Boscio was being hypocritical, given that he was familiar with the delegate process when it came to tentative agreements, and that the Jan. 15 meeting was no different than past similar instances.
“He’s been on this board for at least couple contracts,” the union president said during a phone interview. “What was done here was nothing different than has been done for 22 years.”
He said Mr. Boscio and one of his colleagues had purposefully created disorder during the meeting to advance his candidacy. Mr. Husamudeen brushed off even the disarray, attributing it to “election time.”
“They are running so they created all types of confusion,” he said, adding that several of the roughly 75 COBA delegates didn’t vote at all.
“These guys don’t have a record,” Mr. Husamudeen said. “When they can’t run on their record it becomes their job to create confusion, to sling mud, to get personal. That’s just not who I am or what I am.”
He said he would campaign on his record, including successful past contracts and safer working conditions, as well on his dedication improving the rank-and-file’s lot.
“What I intend to do moving forward is to enhance and improve our benefits,” he said. “I intend to fight in Albany and City Hall for everything that is due to us, including safety.”
Whoever is the next union president will have a sizeable challenge, perhaps including preventing layoffs. The city’s recent announcement that the Rikers Island jails would be closed and be replaced by four borough-based jails will of necessity diminish the jail population. Mayor de Blasio and City Council Speaker Corey Johnson have made it a priority to reduce the inmate population to just over 3,000. It is now at slightly under 5,700, according to the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice.
Although Mr. Husamudeen, 58, is officially an interim president, he will have been at the union’s helm for the entirety of a four-year term by the time June comes around. As COBA vice president he ascended to the post following the suspension of the incumbent, Norman Seabrook, after the latter’s arrest on bribery charges in June 2016, just prior to the last union election.
Mr. Seabrook had been COBA president for 21 years. He ultimately was convicted of accepting a $60,000 bribe in return for investing $20 million of COBA’s money in a hedge fund. The union lost $19 million of when the hedge fund, Platinum Partners, filed for bankruptcy in 2016. Mr. Seabrook was convicted of fraud in August 2018 and was sentenced last February to 58 months in prison.
Got Back Another $7M
A year ago, Mr. Husamudeen and COBA reached a settlement with the hedge fund’s former managing partner by which the union recouped $7 million.
Mr. Seabrook’s challenger for the union presidency in 2016, William Valentin, was ruled off the ballot just prior to the vote after antagonizing Mr. Seabrook’s by questioning the $10 million of the investment that he and others on the union board knew about.
Mr. Boscio became a Correction Officer in 1999 and was appointed a COBA delegate in 2005 representing the Bronx Detention Complex. He joined the union’s executive board in 2010. He has also worked at the Anna M. Kross Center and the Vernon C. Bain Correctional Center.
He said he wanted to return the union to its prior stature. “We are the boldest for a reason. Let’s be even bolder. In June of 2020, we take back our dignity,” he said in the video. “And with your help, we take back our jails as well.”
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