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DA: Principal may have given false prints

John O'Mard, the principal of J.W. Dodd Middle

John O'Mard, the principal of J.W. Dodd Middle School, was charged with four counts of third-degree criminal sexual act, police said. (March 20, 2013) Credit: NCPD; Howard Schnapp

Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice is investigating allegations that the Freeport middle school principal, a felon accused of a criminal sex act with a 16-year-old graduate of the school, submitted false fingerprints to the state in the background check for his hiring nearly a decade ago, a spokesman for Rice said Friday.

"Police and prosecutors are currently investigating these reports," spokesman John Byrne said.

The district attorney's Public Corruption Bureau is working with Nassau police to determine if John O'Mard, 44, has any legitimate college degrees and administrative certificate, a law enforcement source said. Authorities also want to pinpoint how he could conceal criminal convictions from the state Department of Education and the school district.

Meanwhile, Education Department officials said the fingerprints O'Mard submitted to the state in 2004 did not match those of anyone in the state education system or on file with the Division of Criminal Justice Services or FBI. It was on Thursday that the Education Department, responding to questions from Newsday, revealed that the prints O'Mard submitted did not match those on file with DCJS.

Even if O'Mard is cleared of the current charges, Education Department spokesman Dennis Tompkins said he can say "with pretty much 100 percent certainty, he will never work in a school setting again."

"Obviously this is the first circumstance we have heard of a fingerprint switch. But one time is one too many," he said. Education Commissioner John B. King Jr. "is committed to reviewing all the processes to make sure this never happens again."

O'Mard served almost a year in jail after a 1990 conviction for grand larceny, a felony, and a 1987 conviction for petty larceny, a misdemeanor, according to records.

He pleaded not guilty at his arraignment Wednesday to four counts of third-degree criminal sexual act and was released on bail. If convicted, he faces up to 4 years in prison. He is due in court Monday.

Ed Jenks, O'Mard's attorney, said Thursday he was looking into "the criminal dockets alleging the convictions" in his client's past.

Before employment in Freeport schools, O'Mard worked in the New York City public schools, city education officials confirmed. He started as a substitute teacher in 1993, later was appointed as a teacher, and then as an assistant principal and principal at various schools. He resigned in September 2003.

To be hired there, city education officials said, he was fingerprinted and his prints matched those from his arrests.

To enable his hiring, O'Mard was granted a certificate of relief from Nassau County Court in August 1994, the city education department said. That certificate, for anyone convicted of one felony or any number of misdemeanors, can allow an offender to work. Such certificates were enacted to reduce the isolation of individuals that often stems from being convicted of crimes and allow them to get a fresh start, according to state corrections law.

Tompkins said the original paper fingerprint card, submitted by O'Mard in 2004, was destroyed after his clearance was issued, per regulations.

Friday, Freeport school officials announced they will "continue to cooperate with all inquiries" from the district attorney's office, Education Department and law enforcement about O'Mard.

They directed their attorneys, Ingerman Smith Llp, to investigate the falsification of records and report findings to the Board of Education "so that swift, appropriate administrative action may be taken by the Freeport School District concerning Mr. O'Mard," the district said in a statement.

O'Mard's sole job in the district has been as principal of J.W. Dodd Middle School; he was hired in 2003. His 2012 salary was $173,576, according to the Empire Center for New York State Policy's school salary database.

After O'Mard's arrest Wednesday, the district said he had been "administratively reassigned" pending the investigation's outcome. He will keep his pension even if convicted.

At O'Mard's arraignment, prosecutors said he and the teen connected on a dating website and met each other Sept. 22, when they went to O'Mard's home and engaged in sex acts, police said. The teen told police he didn't recognize O'Mard at first, but remembered him as his former principal later that evening, authorities said.

With Ann Givens

and Ellen Yan

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