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Blake faces Ed Dept. at firing probe

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But the lead DOE attorney said the 13-year-old who Blake allegedly assaulted has been consistent with his story and that Blake made numerous "false statements" in the 18-month investigation before the hearing. The proceeding, conducted by an independent arbitrator, is to determine whether Blake will be fired or reinstated to his position at the Queens Village school.Blake is accused by the DOE of misappropriating $30,000 from school fund-raisers, student lunch payments and graduation expenses from October 2005 to June 2006. He is also facing claims of corporal punishment for allegedly punching and choking a student who made a remark about his son, who attended the Queens Village school at the time of the incident in June 2006.Victor Muellen, the DOE attorney, conceded that the student, now 15, "is no angel" and that he had been "suspended numerous times."But he defended the teen's credibility."This student was remarkably consistent with what he said. He never exaggerated. He never piled on," Muellen said. He said Blake "hindered the investigation by giving false statements to the (DOE's) special commissioner of investigations."Among those "false statements" from Blake, Muellen said, were that the former IS 109 head said he was not aware of the DOE's standard operating procedures for principals, that he was not trained by the DOE on how to run his school's finances and that he was not aware that a school treasurer needed to have a background in accounting.About 30 supporters of Blake, who has been backed by elected officials in southeast Queens, attended the opening arguments of the disciplinary hearing Tuesday in Manhattan.Blake's attorney, Jeffrey Bernbach, questioned the motive of the testimony given by IS 109's treasurer at the time - a central figure in the DOE's case - because she had been given immunity. "All of a sudden, everything became Blake's fault," Bernbach said, claiming that "the actions in question were taken by the treasurer."He said Blake "was relying on his subordinate" to accurately record the school's finances.Speaking about the corporal punishment charges, Bernbach claimed the student fabricated his story and said other witnesses to the confrontation between the boy and Blake did not see the principal lay a finger on the teen."Because this young man continued to repeat the lie, it somehow made it true," Bernbach said. "The investigators were somehow impressed by that."He claimed a report by Richard Condon, the special commissioner of investigations, was biased because it did not include accounts by witnesses who were in the room when Blake confronted the boy."If the chancellor got the opportunity to see both sides of the story, we wouldn't be sitting here today," Bernbach said. "This is a travesty. It's just outrageous. The (DOE attorneys) can't prove what they said." Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at hkoplowitz@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 173.

Updated 6:58 pm, October 10, 2011
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