Sign of York College along the back facing facade of the Academic core Building. Photo Credit:Parsram Stanley
By Asar John
Like his predecessor, York’s most recent director for Public Safety moved with little fanfare and tight-lipped secrecy to a
smaller community college with no explanation from college officials. At some point in 2021, York’s former Public Safety Director, Rufus Massiah, left the Jamaica, Queens campus and transferred to Guttman Community College in Manhattan, where he now serves as Director of Public Safety.
Exactly when or why is unclear because York officials refuse to discuss the matter. Massiah departed with two federal lawsuits pending against him involving allegations of discrimination and retaliation by subordinates. Throughout the semester, there have been several emails about events, opportunities and new staff announcements. This, while York College shied away from revealing former Chief Massiah’s departure from the school. Until mid-October, Massiah still appeared on the York website as director despite also being on Guttman’s website as the Campus Security Director.
A report issued by the Dept. of City Administrative Services in October lists Massiah as “appointed” at Guttman on Aug.
1 of this year. The recent 2021 Annual Security Report released by York’s Dept. of Public Safety lists Campus Security Assistant Carlos Suarez as “Interim Director of Public Safety”although the same title does not appear on Suarez’s information page on the York website. When Pandora’s Box reached out to the Office of Communications at York College to ask about Massiah’s unannounced departure, the head of the college’s Office of Legal Affairs, Russel
Platzek, issued a statement to the newspaper.
“In response to the inquiry from Pandora’s Box about Chief Rufus Massiah’s departure, it is the policy of the College not to comment on personnel matters. The College appreciates the service provided by Chief Massiah during his period at York College, and wishes him well in his new assignment as Chief of Public Safety for Guttman Community College.”
Massiah’s unexplained move to Guttman is not the first time a York Public Safety director was quietly transferred to another CUNY campus.
In 2014, former York Public Safety Chief Tyrone Forte inexplicably left York College and was replaced by
Massiah in 2015. Former York peace officer Jimmy Bahr filed a federal lawsuit in June of 2015, regarding several
wrongdoings at York and CUNY, citing complaints about Forte as well. Bahr claimed that Forte retaliated against him for previous complaints when he was acting director of Public Safety. Bahr alleged several instances of corruption and discrimination under Forte when he was the head of Public Safety at York.
The lawsuit was eventually tossed in 2017. As of December 2021, Forte is no longer employed with CUNY. York College did not publicly announce the transfer of Forte to Kingsborough or of Massiah to Guttman, although they routinely announce the arrivals and departures of other high-level employees in the college’s administration. Massiah arrived at York in 2015 with one federal complaint against him pending from a former subordinate at Queens College where he formerly worked and left with a newly filed lawsuit from a York employee. In 2019, York College Public Safety Peace Officer, John Martinez filed suit in District Court against the college and Massiah on the basis of race and age discrimination.
In the lawsuit, Martinez alleges that the discrimination he experienced included “unequal terms and conditions of employment”and “retaliation” from the defendants. Martinez cites one act of discrimination occurring on June 14, 2019, when Massiah issued him a 19-day suspension for “failure to notify and document an incident.” Martinez claims in the suit that the allegation against him is false and requesting damages from the court that include a repeal of the suspension from his record and a “monetary refund of loss of income punitive damages against CUNY and financial
restitution for discrimination.”
Regarding allegations of racial discrimination, Martinez, who identifies as “Hispanic or Latino” in the document, states that African-American employees were treated better by Massiah and a former lieutenant, Tamara Bailey. Another officer, Andros Rodney, is mentioned in the filing with Martinez alleging that Rodney was treated better because he is
African-American, along with other officers including former Sergeant Latoya Whitehead.Rodney has since transferred to Guttman’s Campus Safety office and Whitehead now works at Baruch. Martinez filed an initial complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commissionbut was rebuffed.
He then filed a lawsuit in U.S. federal court, which is still pending. When Pandora’s Box reached out to Officer Martinez for comment on the lawsuit, he declined to comment. Pandora’s Box also reached out to former Chief Massiah for comment on his departure from York, but he did not respond to the request. An older 2016 lawsuit pending against Massiah involves allegations arising from his employment at Queens College where he began working in 2007.
The plaintiff alleges age and gender discrimination when the “city defendants” (Queens College and CUNY) allegedly denied her a promotion to Director of Security and then subsequently demoted her. In the complaint, it is noted that in 2007, Rufus Massiah was hired as Assistant Director/Lieutenant Operations Coordinator at the college, where the plaintiff alleged that this move would subsequently replace her former role as Assistant Director of Public Safety/Security, although this is a different title from the one Massiah was hired as.
The complaint alleges Massiah being younger than the plaintiff who is female, versus Massiah, male, and less qualified despite having supervising power over employees she used to oversee in her former position. The lawsuit alleges that Massiah “often questioned the Plaintiff’s authority and judgment on security procedures.” The complaint also further alleges “upon information and belief” that Massiah once called the plaintiff “incompetent” around her co-workers and others who were a part of the CUNY sphere. That lawsuit is still pending as well.