DOE employee to pay city for conducting real estate business during work hours

By Amy Tennery | February 15, 2011 05:45PM

Celeste Lumpkins-Moses, a Department of Education secretary employed at the Paul Robeson High School in Bedford-Stuyvesant, has agreed to pay a $7,500 fine after DOE officials accused her of using campus computers to run her private real estate business during school hours.

Lumpkins-Moses, the owner of Brooklyn-based residential brokerage Prospective Properties, admitted to using the school facilities for her business, according to a statement released today by the City of New York Conflicts of Interest Board, leading to the settlement figure. But Lumpkins-Moses pointed out to The Real Deal that there was only “probable cause” that the improper behavior occurred. She declined to comment further, saying to call her attorneys, who didn’t immediately respond to calls for comment.

Carolyn Miller, director of enforcement with the COIB, said that while this isn’t the first case of its kind involving a real estate business, she doesn’t feel that the industry itself breeds this kind of conflict.

“There’s nothing particular to real estate, other than it’s the kind of business you can do independently,” Miller said, noting that many in the real estate industry do so part-time while holding down full time jobs.

There have been roughly nine cases in which a city government employee was censured by the COIB for using government time and resources to pursue a private real estate business or investment since 1989, when the COIB was formed, according to city documents.

Lumpkins-Moses’ business does not appear to be registered with the New York State Department of State database and she herself does not appear to be a licensed broker, according to the state website. If she is not, in fact, licensed, as is required by law to practice real estate in New York, Lumpkins-Moses would likely find herself in good company: a recent investigation by The Real Deal found that many of the city’s biggest real estate names do not have licenses or have let theirs lapse.