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Activists: Attorney general, DA should investigate Hempstead schools officials

Joined by community leaders and activist groups, Attorney

Joined by community leaders and activist groups, Attorney Frederick K. Brewington holds a press conference on Jan. 6, 2015 asking for the prosecution of those named in a recent audit of the Hempstead school district. Credit: Newsday / Alejandra Villa

The state attorney general and the Nassau County district attorney must investigate the Hempstead school officials cited in a recent scathing state audit, community activists and attorney Frederick Brewington said Tuesday.

In a letter hand-delivered to the district attorney's office, they asked acting DA Madeline Singas to start proceedings "to address obvious theft, malfeasance, misappropriation, official misconduct and abuse of authority."

Members of the activist groups also asked for immediate resignations of school officials named in state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli's audit, released Dec. 29.

"An atrocious misuse of the public trust has taken place," Brewington said at a news conference in his Hempstead office.

Shams Tarek, a spokesman for Singas, said, "We are well aware of the comptroller's report and our investigation into the school district is ongoing."

Singas was sworn in Tuesday to replace Kathleen Rice, who Tuesday officially took her seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. The DA's office had issued three subpoenas of district officials last spring after a disputed board election, and has said since that its probe is continuing.

Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman's office did not comment Tuesday.

The district, in a statement, said it is "diligently working with the New York state comptroller's office to remedy the findings cited in the comptroller's audit report. We have already taken steps to correct the findings of said report and shall set forth a corrective action plan in accordance with the directives of the comptroller's office."

Brewington and the groups -- New York Communities for Change and The Corridor Counts Inc. -- pointed to the audit's findings that the district overpaid its superintendent by tens of thousands of dollars, failed to screen and provide services for some special-needs students, and routinely held closed-door board meetings.

Lucas Sánchez, Long Island director of New York Communities for Change, called the audit the "beginning of the end for 'business as usual' in Hempstead."

"We are here . . . to make sure the future of Hempstead children and the future of this community does not continue to be stolen," Sánchez said.

Brewington said a more extensive audit, covering at least the past five years, should be undertaken.

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