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DA eyes complaints about push for Roosevelt schools $350/hour consultant

Hempstead mayoral candidate Lance Clarke stands to answer

Hempstead mayoral candidate Lance Clarke stands to answer a question during a mayoral candidate's forum at the African American Museum. (March 14, 2013) Photo Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

The Nassau County district attorney's office is looking into complaints about Assembly Deputy Speaker Earlene Hooper's push for a Hempstead attorney to serve as a $350-an-hour consultant to the Roosevelt school district.

The attorney, Lance D. Clarke, a former Hempstead Village deputy mayor, recently proposed to the Roosevelt district that he would "act as your best advocate" in lobbying for restoration of $14 million in special state aid that expired June 30, adding that he possibly could obtain more money.

"We have received complaints, and we are reviewing it," Chris Munzing, a spokesman for District Attorney Kathleen Rice, said Monday. He declined to elaborate.

Clarke's proposal had the strong endorsement of Hooper (D-Hempstead), who spoke to Roosevelt's school superintendent on Clarke's behalf. Hooper was a key figure in obtaining extra money for the district during an 11-year state takeover that ended July 1.

Clarke, 60, in an interview Monday, said he still is interested in serving as the district's consultant.

"There's no irregularity in what I've done," he said. "I submitted a proposal to the Roosevelt school district through the superintendent and that's it, period."

Hooper, through a spokesman, had no comment.

Some Roosevelt school board trustees complained after hearing of the proposal that Clarke's self-described role as a "government liaison consultant," with the ability to review district finances in detail, would usurp the authority of the district's new superintendent, Deborah Wortham.

Clarke denied that. He said he would need to become well-acquainted with Roosevelt's school operations in order to advocate effectively on the district's behalf with Hooper and other key Albany legislators.

"I like to know what I'm talking about," Clarke said. "I'm not trying to be your comptroller. I'm not trying to be your superintendent. I'm looking to speak with knowledge and confidence about what Roosevelt is doing, if I'm going to talk about special money."

Clarke, a Republican, has donated slightly more than $1,000 to Hooper's campaign funds since 2010, according to a Newsday check of state records, and Hooper's office has paid him about $2,800 in legal fees and other compensation. Clarke and Hooper expressed respect for each other's civic involvement and concern for their communities.

Roosevelt's board had scheduled a special meeting last Thursday to discuss the consulting proposal, but canceled it about a half-hour before it was to begin after Newsday raised questions about the plan. The board president, Robert Summerville, said at the time that most of the five board trustees could not attend.

In recent interviews, Summerville and two other trustees, Alfred Taylor and Willa Scott, have voiced misgivings about the proposal to hire Clarke.

With Yancey Roy

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