Hempstead election challenger says Betty Cross should be permanently removed

August 12, 2014

Betty Cross' re-election to the Hempstead school board in May should be permanently overturned, her challenger said in papers filed with the state, alleging the district failed to track and verify absentee ballots, among other problems.

Attorney Frederick K. Brewington, representing candidate Maribel Touré, filed the initial petition contesting Cross' election with state Education Commissioner John B. King Jr. in June, naming longtime board president Cross, district clerk Patricia Wright and the Hempstead schools as respondents.

King removed Cross, 68, from the board July 18 until he makes a final decision.

Brewington, in the latest filing Monday, said King should invalidate Cross' election, declare Touré the victor and void the absentee ballots that the attorney alleges were not properly obtained.

The respondents' "open and obvious fraud, manipulation and violation of rules" turned the May 20 board election "into a mockery," the papers say.

Brewington said scores of absentee ballots were given to people who did not qualify and Wright did not maintain a list of absentee voters.

The school district has said the election was conducted properly. It has until Monday to respond.

"The district does not believe the commissioner should overturn the election results, disenfranchising voters," Austin Graff, an attorney for the school district, said Tuesday.

The latest filing included an affidavit from a former Hempstead High School principal, Reginald Stroughn, who said Cross asked him in the months before the election to arrange buses -- paid for with taxpayer dollars -- to pick up high schoolers from campus during the school day so that they could vote for her.

He ignored the requests, he said.

"Respondent Cross and her campaign members' disregard for the sanctity of the electoral process has clearly played a key role in generating fraudulent results in the Hempstead school board election," the filing says.

The district would not comment on Stroughn's affidavit.

Brewington also contends that a hastily called May 21 meeting to count scores of contested absentee ballots was called improperly. It was then that Cross was declared a winner, beating Touré by six votes.

Ricky Cooke was the highest vote-getter and his election is not being challenged. Touré, who ran as a team with Cooke, was found to have 712 votes to Cross' 691 on election night.

Of the 344 absentee ballots included in the final count, Cross received 172. Cooke did not get any of those votes, and Touré got seven, the district reported.

The Nassau County district attorney's office is investigating the election and has issued three subpoenas to the school district in the matter, a source close to the investigation has said.

Asked if the office was sharing information with King, spokesman Shams Tarek said, "We're sharing what we're legally allowed to and the investigation is ongoing."