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OpinionColumnistsMichael Dobie

The Hempstead hustle

Carmen Ayala and Patricia Spleen celebrate their election

Carmen Ayala and Patricia Spleen celebrate their election to the Hempstead school board at Alverta B. Gray Schultz Middle School on Tuesday night. Credit: Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara

The election of two new members to the Hempstead school board Tuesday also signals a return to the action by a former member with a troubling past.

Carmen Ayala and Patricia Spleen, who defeated incumbents Maribel Touré and Gwendolyn Jackson, were backed by a community group called Hempstead for Hempstead. The organization was founded after Touré, part of a reform movement, was elected in 2014 with assistance from groups outside the school district. Hempstead for Hempstead has been working since then to get Touré and her allies off the board.

The public face of Hempstead for Hempstead is Thomas Parsley.

Parsley, a Hempstead High grad who won a board seat in 2003, was removed from the seat two years later when he was convicted of fourth-degree grand larceny and petty larceny: He stole a principal’s ATM card and withdrew $500.

In 2006, a former school consultant was convicted on charges related to his alleged bribing of Parsley while he was on the board. And in 2010, Parsley was convicted of sexual misconduct with a 15-year-old boy and appears on the state sex offender registry as a Level 3 sex offender.

Hempstead insiders tell The Point that Parsley is aligned with majority board members LaMont Johnson, David Gates and Randy Stith. “Thomas Parsley has his hands on the power levels in Hempstead,” one of those insiders said.

Parsley is mentioned in a lawsuit against the district filed by former Hempstead superintendent Shimon Waronker, who was placed on administrative leave in January by the voting bloc of Johnson, Gates and Stith. The suit says, “Hempstead for Hempstead was founded by Thomas Parsley (according to him)” and claims that the group told Waronker that if he fired high school principal Stephen Strachan, which Waronker did last fall, “there would be ‘war.’ ” The board rehired Strachan after putting Waronker on leave.

Attorney Fred Brewington, who represents Waronker and supported Touré and other reformers, said of Parsley’s presence in school district matters, “He’s up to his neck. He’s actively involved in pushing issues . . . He’s in direct line with Gates and Stith and LaMont.”

In the Hempstead school district, even a convicted sex offender and thief can make the grade.