BY JAMES FARRELL
A Southeast Queens school superintendent was arrested on May 23 for allegedly groping an employee, police said.
Lenon Murray, 56, was the superintendent of school district 29, an area that covers several neighborhoods in southeast Queens, including Laurelton, Queens Village, Rosedale, Springfield Gardens and St. Albans.
He was arrested on two counts of forcible touching and two counts of sexual abuse in the third degree, according to the criminal complaint.
The victim, who is not identified in the complaint, alleges that on May 2, at 12 p.m., Murray “came up behind her while she was seated at her desk and grabbed her breasts,” according to the complaint. The victim also alleges that a similar incident occurred on April 19, during which Murray is accused of running his hands up and down her buttocks.
The complaint also states that the complainant “repeatedly told the defendant not to touch her and to stop.”
Murray was released on his own recognizance following a court hearing on the day of his arrest. He is expected to return to court on June 15, court records show.
The New York Daily News reported that the alleged groping incidents occurred at PS 35 in Hollis.
The Department of Education responded swiftly to Murray’s arrest, firing him on the same day from his superintendent position.
“This alleged behavior is unacceptable and has no place in our schools,” said DOE spokeswoman Toya Holness.
“Mr. Murray’s employment was immediately terminated and he was removed from payroll.”
Murray first started working in New York City public education in 1987 and, beginning in 2002, he served as principal of PS 038 in Rosedale. He has served as the superintendent of district 29 since 2007 and had no prior disciplinary history, the DOE said. His most recent salary was $174,680.
In the wake of Murray’s arrest, Beverly Mitchell, the district 29 principal leadership facilitator, has been made acting superintendent, the DOE said.
Murray could not be reached for comment by the Queens Tribune, but his lawyer, Alleyn Paul, gave a staunch denial of the allegations, suggesting that they were the result of a personal vendetta against Murray.
“We believe the allegations to be fabricated claims for a poor work review,” Paul told the Queens Tribune. “My client has an impeccable reputation for 30 years with the [DOE] and Mr. Murray has never had a brush with the law until this unfortunate event.”
In an exclusive interview with CBS, Murray said that he was “completely and absolutely” denying the charges.
“Let the judicial system take care of things,” he said.
DOE Chancellor Carmen Fariña commented on the situation during an unrelated press conference on Thursday morning.
“Within two hours of hearing of his arrest, he was notified that he no longer had a job and he was removed from payroll,” Fariña said.
In his CBS interview, Murray said that he understood the decision to fire him.
“She had to do what she had to do and I fully support the chancellor,” he said.
In a statement, Assemblywoman Alicia Hyndman (D-Springfield Gardens) said that she was “shocked and saddened” by the allegations, praising Murray’s previous work in helping create a “cohesive and positive learning environment.” She added that she had confidence in Mitchell to fill his shoes.
“In the coming weeks and months, the truth will emerge and we must allow the legal process to proceed, unencumbered,” she said. “As a parent advocate, a former President of Community District Education Council 29 and, now, as the assemblywoman, my role will be to continue working with our mayor, Bill de Blasio, and Chancellor Carmen Fariña in order for our students to receive the best education possible.”
Reach James Farrell at (718) 357-7400 x 127, email@example.com or @farrellj329.