Hempstead School Board cancels 1st meeting after audit

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HEMPSTEAD -

The Hempstead School Board canceled its Thursday night meeting that was supposed to be the first one since an audit of the troubled district revealed possible criminal activity.

School board president Maribel Toure says she's upset but not surprised that the board majority suddenly canceled the meeting. It would have been the first meeting since a preliminary audit raised questions about the way the district spends its tax dollars.

"This is traditionally Hempstead," Toure says. "If we don't face a problem, we pretend we don't have a problem. The problem still exists and we are not addressing the problem."

As News 12 has reported, auditors found more than a dozen concerns, including payments to former employees, employees earning substantial amounts of overtime pay and duplicate payments to vendors.

Toure and school board member Gwen Jackson called for the initial audit, but since the preliminary results came back in January, they lost their majority vote on the board. They say the new majority stalled on approving $135,000 for which the auditor asked to dig deeper into the district's books. They also say the new majority eventually approved $100,000 for the auditor to finish its investigation -- but in the three months that have passed, the business manager was suspended and all the records were packed.

"We don't know what happened in those three months," Jackson says. "We don't know where all the documents are."

Carmen Ayala, who is running for a school board position, says Toure and Jackson leaked the audit because they're running for re-election. Ayala says the board should wait until the final report comes out this summer before taking action.

State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia says she finds the audit concerning and that her team is investigating.

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