A Department of Investigation probe of the Parks Department's Lifeguard Division found major dysfunction, particularly in its disciplinary process.
 
A big part of the problem, the report concluded, was that the division's longtime Lifeguard Coordinator, Richard Sher, also was the primary hearing officer for disciplinary cases. Analyzing 71 Lifeguard-related complaints that were made beginning in 2014, DOI reported that 13 were closed because the unions refused to cooperate with investigators.
 
How and why did this happen? The obvious answer is that Mr. Sher has been the chief lieutenant to Peter Stein, the longtime president of Chief Lifeguards Local 508. A past investigation into corruption at its parent local, District Council 37, concluded that Mr. Stein also controlled Lifeguards Local 461, and played a part in the rigged vote on a union wage contract more than 25 years ago, delivering wildly inflated numbers for the two locals in favor of a pact that began with a two-year wage freeze.
 
When Franklyn Paige, the actual president of Local 461, was removed from office by DC 37's national union last year, one union veteran remarked, "Bubba was a nice guy, but Peter was pulling all the strings." 
 
Mr. Paige became a Lifeguard at the urging of his coach on the Bushwick High School swim team, Mr. Sher. And as the New York Magazine article last year that probably sparked the DOI probe noted, during Mr. Stein's four decades in power, "his supervisors have rigged swim tests, shielded sexual predators and falsified drowning reports."
 
One union reformer, Omer Ozcan, told this newspaper's Crystal Lewis he believed his recent suspension on what he claimed were manufactured charges came in retaliation for criticizing the man he derisively called "Peter the Great."
 
After the corruption scandal in the late 1990s, the commitment of DC 37 and its national union to meaningful reform came into question when, rather than clearing out Mr. Stein, officials elevated him to a post on the DC 37 executive board.
 
The leader of the union during its most-turbulent era, Stanley Hill, was a cliche mangler who once brushed off a question about whether top aides to Mayor David Dinkins  persuaded him to make decisions that hurt the union by saying, "The head stinks."
 
Lesser leaders in the lifeguard ranks may depart because of embarrassing publicity, but as long as Mr. Stein's influence lingers, the "head" will continue to pollute the waters. 

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