Atlantic City BOE owes $100K for investigation into sex offender’s employment, suit claims
The Atlantic City Board of Education has failed to pay for a now-halted investigation into a convicted child pornographer’s employment as a teacher, a lawsuit claims.
Ka’yan Frazier, who is currently serving a 20-year federal prison sentence, met and groomed a student while a substitute teacher at Pennsylvania Avenue School. That child’s abuse was captured in the offending materials.
Porzio, Bromberg & Newman was hired in October 2020, to investigate Frazier’s employment and subsequent firing.
Porzio now alleges that the board failed to pay $103,706.05 in services rendered, despite encouraging the ongoing investigation and the law firm providing “timely invoices to the Board,” the suit filed earlier this month states.
The details of the investigation have not been made public. But that could change as the case moves through the civil court.
What is known is that money twice halted the investigation.
On April 27, 2021, Porzio was told to cease all work after the firm surpassed the contract’s initial $50,000 cap.
But when the mother of the victim filed suit against the district, public outcry resulted in the board voting to raise the cap another $50,000.
At that time, board member Al Herbert said that the cap should be extended further or else the board would be back in the same situation “in another month or two.”
His prediction proved correct when attorneys Jonelle Edwards-Stewart and Bill Hughes Jr. addressed the board Sept. 21, saying the investigation was halted and that the district owed about $96,000. At that time, about $92,000 had been paid.
Board Solicitor Tracy Riley said she had told the firm they needed to sit down and go over the bill, “since it exceeded the bottom-line number of the contract.”
Hughes countered that his firm had tried to set a time, and received no response. When he asked to set a date at the meeting, Riley pushed him off.
It’s not clear how much of the unpaid money goes beyond the $100,000 limit. But the suit does claim that it was the board that caused the increased fees.
“The Board frustrated the performance of Porzio’s duties in conducting the independent investigation, which caused a substantial increase in the fees and costs,” the suit states.
This seems to confirm what multiple sources told BreakingAC. They alleged that the district refused to provide them with requested paperwork or access to employees for interviews, causing increased hours.
The suit also alleges the board president added to the fees.
“During the course of the representation, Porzio also was requested to advise the Board President on certain matters when the regular Board attorney failed to return the Board President’s telephone calls seeking legal assistance and advice,” the suit states.
It is not clear what advice board President Shay Steele was requesting.
Neither he nor the board’s solicitor responded to repeated requests seeking comment.
Mayor Marty Small has alleged the investigation is a political move, since Frazier is his wife’s cousin. Dr. La’Quetta Small is now the district’s superintendent.
The investigation came more than a year after Frazier had been arrested and four years after he was no longer working for the district.
Frazier was ultimately fired by the company that provides substitutes to the district after then-Pennsylvania Avenue School Principal La’Quetta Small reported that he had outside interaction with the child, including allowing him to sleep over in Frazier’s bed. Dr. Small has denied knowledge of any sexual abuse.
Frazier was a caseworker for the Division of Child Protection and Permanency when he was arrested in April 2019. He was hired by the state months after he was terminated as a substitute.
Charles Stoia, who is representing Porzio, said he could not comment on the case.