Carmen Ayala and Patricia Spleen, elected May 15 to the embattled Hempstead School Board, are no strangers to its majority, backed by Hempstead for Hempstead, according to campaign literature and sources close to the group.
The self-proclaimed founder of Hempstead For Hempstead is former Hempstead school Trustee Thomas Parsley, a registered sex offender. Parsley, 40, was removed from the school board in 2004 after being convicted of grand larceny for stealing a principal’s ATM card and withdrawing $500. In 2010, Parsley was sentenced to a year in jail for sexual misconduct with a 15-year-old boy, records show. Parsley couldn’t be reached for comment.
Hempstead for Hempstead was represented by a lobbying group called Gotham Government Relations & Communications, whose other clients include President Donald Trump. Gotham’s CEO is Brad Gerstman, of the Gerstman, Schwartz & Malito law firm. At a Feb. 1, 2018 Hempstead School Board meeting, the members of the majority voted to retain the Gerstman law firm to investigate suspended school superintendent Shimon Waronker and commence legal action against a program he brought into the district. In April, Gotham Government Relations was approved by the board to serve as the District’s $5,000-per-month public relations firm, according to a Gotham staffer.
“We cut ties with Hempstead for Hempstead when we were appointed as the public relations firm for the school district,” Gerstman says, noting that there was no overlap or conflict. “And we didn’t continue to investigate or anything related to law firm activities.”
“What they need from us at this period of time is to be their mouthpiece,” Gerstman adds. “I feel good about our small part in trying to clean it up and right the wrongs that may have occurred there.”
The previous board candidate backed by Hempstead for Hempstead was Randy Stith, who was back June 1 before a judge to answer for his latest criminal charges: A 13 count indictment for allegedly stealing money from the Hempstead Fire Department and forging a letter of recommendation from the department to become a Hempstead police officer. Stith, 27, pleaded not guilty and faces up to seven years in prison.
An earlier criminal charge initially disqualified Stith from civil service. To persuade Nassau’s Civil Service Commission to rescind the disqualification, he allegedly filed a forged letter of recommendation purporting to be signed by another member of Hempstead’s Southside Hose 2 fire company, vouching for his character.
The earlier crime was in 2010, when Stith was 19 years old. He was arrested for hitting a woman in the head with a bottle of bleach and splashing the chemical into her eyes during a dispute over clothes at a Hempstead Laundromat. He was charged with misdemeanor assault and possession of the bottle of bleach as a weapon. He pled guilty to a noncriminal harassment violation, served five days in jail, and paid $320 in fines and court fees.
On April 25, hours before Stith turned himself in for the latest charges, the Hempstead School District released a statement:
“Hempstead School Board Member Randy Stith is someone who has given years to public service and deserves the benefit of the doubt. However, these are very serious allegations and if the charges are proven true, then the school district and school board will have to address it immediately.”
Stith could not be reached for comment. He is accused of stealing more than $6,500 from the Hempstead Fire Department while he served as treasurer from 2015 to 2018. Stith allegedly made 12 unauthorized cash withdrawals from the bank account of Southside Hose 2 and then falsified documents to cover it up. He was terminated from the department in January.
Based on the recommendation he allegedly falsified, Stith became a Hempstead village police officer last year. At his swearing in, his godfather, Hempstead Village Mayor Don Ryan, said, “The village is confident that he will prove to be a fine addition to the village police force.”
Last month, Mayor Ryan, village and school board trustee LaMont Johnson and the rest of the village Board voted not to terminate Probationary Officer Stith, opting instead to leave him on paid administrative leave as the criminal case winds through the legal system. Later, Ryan said he meant to recuse himself from the vote.
Johnson did not recuse himself. The mayor’s assistant, school trustee David Gates, could not be reached for comment.