Senior NYC school official charged with attempting to lure a teen to a hotel, possession of child porn

David Hay, the deputy chief of staff to schools Chancellor Richard Carranza, was charged Friday with child enticement and possession of child pornography, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Eastern District of Wisconsin where Hay was arrested earlier this week.

Hay, 39, was taken into custody at a Milwaukee airport on Sunday following a months-long investigation.

On Friday, Hay pleaded not guilty and was released on home detention, according to Kenneth Gales, a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s office.

The Brooklyn resident formerly lived in Wisconsin where he was a principal at Tomah and Kettle Moraine high schools. Hay began corresponding in July on a popular dating app with someone he believed to be a 14-year-old boy named “Colton,” who was living in Neenah, Wisconsin, according to a press release. 

Hay allegedly began engaging in sexually explicit conversations with “Colton” and making plans to meet up with the minor for sex, the release said.

“Colton,” however, was a City of Neenah Police Investigator operating undercover, and according to the charges, Hay allegedly booked a “whirlpool suite” at a Neenah area hotel for the purpose of meeting up with the child.  

David Hay via Twitter

Hay ended up bailing out of the hotel rendezvous, saying his mother had fallen down the stairs, and he needed to help his family. He also said he was “a bit scared” to meet and cited their “age diff,” according to the criminal complaint.

After Hay’s arrest, authorities searched his smart phone and found sexually explicit images of a former student at Tomah High School where Hay was principal from 2011-2014. Hay did not immediately return messages seeking comment; his lawyer could not immediately be reached. 

At an unrelated press conference on Friday, Carranza called Hay’s conduct “absolutely unacceptable” and told reporters that he immediately fired Hay because of the seriousness of the allegations. 

“There is the assumption of innocence until proven guilty, however there is no room in my office or in this school system for anyone who is accused of that kind of crime,” Carranza said.

The city’s Department of Investigation has acknowledged that it did not complete Hay’s background check when he was hired by the city in 2016, owing to a backlog of files awaiting review. Education department officials said he was subject to two other background checks through a separate process, in 2016 and 2018. Carranza declined to comment Friday when asked about the background check process.

Hay faces a minimum sentence of 10 years and up to a lifetime of imprisonment if convicted of the enticement charge. He faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted of the child pornography possession charge. 

Hay earned a doctorate at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education and was hired by New York City’s education department in 2016 under then-Chancellor Carmen Farina, according to his LinkedIn profile.

In his role as chief of staff, Hay was a key behind-the-scenes advocate of the chancellor’s agenda, including implicit bias training. He was a point person on assessments and standardized testing, as well as the department’s school improvement efforts. Hay was frequently on hand at high profile school visits and press conferences.

Hay’s case is being handled by federal authorities because the alleged criminal behavior occurred across state lines.