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Hempstead school board confirms election results

School board member Shelly Brazley speaks out against

School board member Shelly Brazley speaks out against the election after results were read at an emergency school board meeting at Alverta B. Gray Schultz Middle School on Wednesday, May 20, 2015, in Hempstead. Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp

The Hempstead school board, conceding that it acted outside its authority in attempting to decertify last month's election results, now says it acknowledges the vote totals.

Board president Lamont Johnson has said he expects the two top vote-getters -- incumbent Maribel Toure and newcomer Gwendolyn Jackson -- to be sworn in in July.

"We can't decertify," Johnson said Thursday. "The results are the results."

In the May 19 election, Toure pulled in 678 votes. Jackson, who ran with her as a team, earned 500 votes.

Incumbent Shelley Brazley received 457 votes; David B. Gates had 437; Jeffrey Spencer came in with 384; Hans Thevenot earned 148; and Caprice Rines had 105, the school district has said.

Mimi Pierre Johnson, Toure and Jackson's co-campaign manager, said the women ran a clean race and that the district should have acted sooner.

"We should not have had to wait two weeks for the voters to know what happened to the election," she said.

Brazley, at a news conference Friday afternoon held by pastors with the Long Island Council of Clergy for the purpose of demanding a revote, said she was not aware, until she read it in the news, that the school district decided to recognize the votes. "My heart is broken," Brazley said. "I grieve for the children of the community."

The Rev. William A. Watson Jr. said the May election was fraudulent and that he wanted to "let the world know we will not tolerate this in our community."

The board initially certified the budget and school board results on May 20. Less than two hours later, it voted not to "accept, approve or certify" the school board results.

But only the state education commissioner can overturn an election, Johnson said. The board president was one of four trustees -- including Brazley, Ricky Cooke and JoAnn Simmons -- who voted against certifying the candidates' vote totals.

Austin Graff, an attorney for the school district, said it doesn't matter whether the board certifies the results.

"The board has the right not to certify the results, but it cannot reverse the outcome of the election," he said.

A spokeswoman for the state Education Department said the office has not received any petition regarding the election.

Last year, then-education commissioner John B. King Jr. called for a special election after allegations of voter fraud against incumbent Betty Cross' supporters. Toure edged out Cross in May 2014 until a number of disputed absentee ballots were counted and Cross came out ahead. King removed Cross from the five-member board and called for a revote.

Toure handily defeated Cross in a special election in October.

Cheryl Wyche, a parent in the district who attends most of its meetings, said she's tired of Hempstead's school board elections turning into long legal battles that divert money to lawyers instead of kids. She wants a new election, one in which candidates put students before their own interests.

"I would like Maribel and her partner to step down," she said. "I need us to get another election going and get the right candidates to represent the community."

Lucas Sanchez, director of the Nassau County office of New York Communities for Change, said the pair won lawfully, adding, "We are looking forward to continuing to have new faces and new voices who will actually have the interest of the children in mind."


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