Atlantic City mayor says search warrants involve ‘private family issue,’ not corruption

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ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) — Atlantic City Mayor Marty Small said Monday that a search of his home last week by prosecutors involved “a private family issue,” not a crime.

The Democratic mayor held a news conference at City Hall to respond to the execution last Thursday of five search warrants by the Atlantic County Prosecutor’s Office naming the mayor and his wife, LaQuetta Small, the city’s superintendent of schools.

Small said he and his wife have been interacting with state child welfare authorities and have nothing to hide.

“We’re going through family therapy, and that’s what this should be, a family matter,” he said.

Small’s wife and two children attended the news conference with him but did not speak, and left before it was completed.

Jason Butkowski, a spokesman for the state Division of Child Protection and Permanency, said Monday it cannot publicly discuss its cases to protect the privacy of those involved.

After officers from the county prosecutor’s office searched the Smalls’ home and vehicles, they left with two cellphones and between four to six laptops, said Small’s attorney, Edwin Jacobs.

“This entire investigation arose from nothing more than a personal and emotional family matter,” Jacobs said. “Mayor Small and his wife LaQuetta indeed have high public profiles, deservedly so. Like any family, the Small family has challenges in raising children, and they do not merit investigation or oversight by the county prosecutor.”

Small said 20 heavily armed officers from the prosecutor’s office converged on his home a few blocks from the city’s casinos, saying some carried rifles and battering rams.

No charges were announced against either of the Smalls after the raid or in subsequent days.

The prosecutor’s office issued a statement responding to Small’s news conference, saying its officers followed all policies and protocols, acted professionally, and treated the Smalls with respect, but declining to comment further.

The search of the mayor’s home came hours after the prosecutor’s office announced it had charged the principal of Atlantic City High School with failing to report a case of suspected child abuse, as required by law.

The prosecutor’s office charged Constance Days-Chapman on Thursday with official misconduct, hindering apprehension of another, obstruction of justice, and failure to report child abuse.

The agency said in a news release that on Jan. 22, a juvenile student at the high school informed a school staff member that the student had been emotionally and physically abused by the student’s parents, and that the student had previously disclosed this abuse to Days-Chapman.

Days-Chapman told the staff member she would report the matter to state child welfare officials, but never did so, according to the prosecutor’s office. Instead, Days-Chapman met with the juvenile’s parents at the parents’ house and informed them that the juvenile disclosed to school staff that the juvenile was being abused by them.

Neither the student nor the parents were identified in the news release. Days-Chapman’s office did not respond to telephone messages left with her office Thursday and Monday seeking comment.

Days-Chapman also is the president of the city’s Democratic Committee, and in 2021 headed up Marty Small’s mayoral reelection campaign.

Asked directly if the student referenced in the charges brought against Days-Chapman is the Smalls’ daughter, Jacobs said he would not “respond to any specific factual allegations.”

“We’re not here to try a case that has not been brought,” he said.

But Small defended the principal, referring to her by her nickname and noting that she is such a close friend that she is practically a member of his family.

“We stand with Mandy and Mandy stands with us,” Small said. “She has done nothing wrong. We have done nothing wrong.”

Small referred to Atlantic City’s long history of political corruption, which was immortalized in the hit TV series “Boardwalk Empire.” Small himself took office after his predecessor admitted stealing $87,000 from a youth basketball program he founded.

“Those of you who want to think this is past Atlantic City business as usual — when it’s a raid, it’s involving corruption — this ain’t that,” he said. “My wife and I control over half a billion dollars of taxpayer money, and we’re doing a damn good job at it.”

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