Asbestos Whistleblower Says He Got Demoted

A steamfitter who has worked for the New York City Department of Education for more than 22 years says he was demoted for questioning the presence of asbestos in several city schools.

According to an article on, John Kielbasa, a veteran 22-year school district employee dubbed “the Serpico of Schools” by his co-workers, “has been vigilant about reporting loose friable asbestos in a variety of New York City Schools over the last 15 years.” As a reward, he was demoted to janitor and now spends his days sweeping floors, said his attorney in a recent press release.

Kielbasa and his lawyer maintain that he is being punished for bringing the problem to light. “How can they label me a troublemaker if I’m bringing something important to people’s awareness?” Kielbasa asked.

Pete Gleason, Kielbasa’s attorney, contends that Mr. Eric Wienbaum, who was “recently and quietly transferred for undisclosed reasons,” was the instigator of the harassment Kielbasa has suffered for more than six years.

During this time period, Kielbasa was frustrated by the lack of response he received when he followed procedure and reported his asbestos findings to his supervisor. So, he decided to collect loose, friable asbestos from the city schools to which he was assigned and he sent them to the EMSL lab, one of the city’s top asbestos-testing facilities. All of the samples were confirmed positive for loose friable asbestos. Rather than address the problem, the DOE chose to discipline Kielbasa, says Gleason.

According to the article, Gleason sent a complete synopsis of the long-ignored asbestos condition in NY City schools to New York City Comptroller, William Thompson; New York City Public Advocate, Betsy Gotbaum; New York City Council Speaker, Christine Quinn; Manhattan Borough President, Scott Stringer; and New York State Senator, Martin Connor. Only Comptroller Thompson responded. The situation is now the subject of a US Department of Labor investigation.

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