Atlantic City’s superintendent sparked an investigation into a school board member that has resulted in a move to oust him, a court filing shows.
Farook Hossain’s vote has not been recorded since the Jan. 11 reorganization meeting, after the board solicitor said questions were raised about his residency.
Since then, Hossain’s name has been called during votes, but Riley barred the board secretary from recording it.
This led Hossain’s attorney, William Koy Sr., to file a complaint with the commissioner of education about Hossain’s treatment and the apparent lack of due process. It also asks that his vote be retroactively reinstated.
In response, the board voted to petition the commissioner to remove Hossain.
A hearing is now scheduled to be held Wednesday morning via Zoom before Administrative Law Judge John S. Kennedy. It was not immediately clear if that would be open to the public.
Riley told the board at its reorganization meeting that the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office reached out about evidence suggesting Hossain no longer lives at his registered address in Atlantic City.
But she failed to mention that Chief Assistant Prosecutor John Flammer’s Dec. 30 email was in response to an investigation made at her request.
“I am the solicitor for the Atlantic City Board of Education,” Riley wrote in an email sent to Atlantic County Prosecutor Damon Tyner on Aug. 21. “The superintendent, Barry Caldwell, recently brought a matter of concern to my attention and has requested that this matter be referred to your office.”
The remainder of the letter, along with 12 pages of documents, alleges Hossain lied on an application for free or reduced lunch for his children. Riley also sent additional information to an investigator at his request.
The emails are part of the 116-page response Riley filed Tuesday night responding to Koy’s complaint and asking for the removal of Hossain.
Although it appears Hossain already was removed from the roll call Tuesday night.
Following a two-hour executive session, the board voted on several items including the petition for removal and authorization for the solicitor to sue Hossain and his wife civilly. The details of that lawsuit have not been disclosed, and nothing appears to have been filed at this time.
Hossain’s name was never called during any of those votes, including one to discontinue the superintendent search that he was part of.
The Department of Education said it’s looking into BreakingAC’s question about what a member’s official status is after a petition is filed.
But Koy insists his client remains a seated member who should have voting rights.
The superintendent’s initial issue with Hossain seems to be questions about his financial disclosures in applying for free lunch for his two children.
The numbers, it says, do not jibe with the income he lists for himself and his wife in the personal/relative disclosure statement Hossain had to file as a board member.
Riley even includes as exhibits news coverage of a 2012 case in which the then-board president for the Elizabeth school district was criminally charged and then convicted for filing false applications for her children.
But Koy calls those issues “red herrings,” saying that his complaint is really about the board’s failure to give his client due process. Instead of filing the petition with the education commissioner to remove Hossain six weeks ago, the board allowed the solicitor to “overstep” her boundaries and bar his vote from being recorded.
“I’m really even more excited now to argue this before the commissioner,” Koy said after reading over Riley’s respons. “(Riley’s response) does not address the voting right revocation. How can anyone be seated on the board but not allowed to vote?”
Riley has repeatedly ignored requests from BreakingAC since Jan. 11, asking why she hadn’t advised the board about filing a petition rather than ordering his vote not be recorded.
In a Feb. 17 email sent to Atlantic County Executive Superintendent Robert Bumpus, Riley claims she was not able to obtain the board’s authorization, citing two scheduled January meetings that did not reach a quorum. She also notes that last week’s meeting ended before executive session, when several board members logged off the video meeting, leaving them again without a quorum.
But Riley fails to explain why she never mentioned the petition option during public discussion about Hossain, nor why it only was listed on this week’s special meeting agenda after Koy filed his complaint.
Riley, Caldwell and Board of Education President Shay Steele did not return repeated requests for comment.
Emails give timeline of investigation
(NOTE: The hearing was originally scheduled for Tuesday, but a conflict resulted in a change on the day and judge. The story has been updated to reflect that change.)