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Judge reinstates Atlantic City school board member’s vote

An Atlantic City school board member whose residency is being questioned has the right to have his vote counted, a judge ruled Thursday.
Farook Hossain is fighting allegations that he no longer lives in the city and should not be on the board.
Solicitor Tracy Riley made the claims at the reorganization meeting Jan. 11, and has barred his vote being counted since.
But Hossain petitioned the Office of Administrative Law for emergent relief, asking that his rights be reinstated while the case goes through the court.
Administrative Law Judge John S. Kennedy agreed in a written decision released Thursday, and the votes Riley told board secretary Angie Brown not to record should be counted.
“We’re very, very pleased,” attorney Bill Koy said of the decision. “I feel so good for Farook Hossain, and I owe it all to him.”
Koy said it was the details Hossain provided of how things occurred, along with when and why that helped in the case’s success.
Riley did not return a request seeking comment.
Board President Shay Steele said he had no comment.
The decision fully reinstates Hossain to the board, for now at least. He should have full voting rights at the next meeting, scheduled for March 23.
It was not clear if this would reopen the superintendent search, which was discontinued due to Hossain’s membership on the hiring committee.
The battle does continue, however.
Hossain also is claiming his due process was violated when Riley barred his vote without a hearing.
The process to remove a member who contests residency claims is to file a petition for removal with the commissioner of education.
But, despite making the residency claims Jan. 11, Riley did not put the petition on the agenda until Feb. 23, when a special meeting was held that included her filing a response to Hossain’s complaint.
Riley told the judge at the hearing that she barred Hossain’s vote under the statute governing school boards that notes that when a member ceases to be a bona fide resident of the district “his membership in the board shall immediately cease.”
She, however, did not mention the procedure when a member contends they are still a resident, as Hossain has.
“In a situation in which the individual’s residency is challenged but he or she disputes the matter, a petition could be filed with the state commissioner of education who would then issue a decision,” a state School Boards Association spokeswoman previously told BreakingAC.
The petition to remove Hossain also remains pending, along with a civil lawsuit the board filed against Hossain and his wife.
That suit claims the couple owes the district for tuition, since their two children allegedly have not lived in the district since January 2020. The suit also alleges Hossain lied on the application to get his children free and reduced lunch.
It was that application that first sparked an investigation. Superintendent Barry Caldwell asked Riley to email the Atlantic County prosecutor about the alleged fraud.
The commissioner of education has 45 days to adopt, modify or reject the order. If that is not done, the order becomes the final decision in the matter.

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