By the end of the year, 2016, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Department of Justice, the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Rockland County District Attorney, New York State’s Attorney General and the New York State Department of State all had turned their attention to the widespread corruption in the Town of Ramapo. Investigations, search warrants, arrests and indictments followed and continue as the year came to a close. The half-dozen agencies are filing their intentions in courts, and several serious investigations continue. Finally, It’s on.
The year began in January on a positive note. In the second half of December 2015, the Public Service Commission ended the years-long fight between the grassroots Rockland Water Coalition and the water company Suez. The Commission ordered Suez to abandon its controversial desalination plant in Haverstraw. Rocklanders would not be forced to get their drinking water from the Hudson River.
What follows is a list of the notable legal actions of the year. It’s quite extensive; you might prefer to just read the headlines for the articles. You can read the complete stories on our website either by going to the monthly index of articles or by searching for them in the search bar at the top of the home page. That search indexes all the content on the new preserve-ramapo.com website.
January 21 – Spring Valley Building Inspector Charged with Fraud
Spring Valley’s chief building inspector and a businessman were arrested Thursday in a corruption investigation that alleges the inspector gave the man false certificates of occupancy for the man’s Zeissner Lane home.That false certificate allowed the businessman to get sizeable tax exemptions and otherwise profit from day-care centers run from the property, prosecutors charge. Walter Booker was released without bail. The homeowner, Rabbi Jacob Goldman, is also facing charges. [Note: Booker was ultimately found not guilty, Goldman was convicted.]
March 2 – Channel 4 I-Team: Rockland Firefighters Sound the Alarm on Illegal Conversions in Ramapo and Spring Valley
Sarah Wallace report. Firefighters in Rockland County are sounding the alarm about a life-threatening danger: illegally converted homes and out-of-control construction. The hot zones are in the village of Spring Valley and the neighboring town of Ramapo.
March 3 – Ramapo Councilman Samuel Tress Arrested
Councilman Samuel Tress was arrested Thursday afternoon for voting to back a zoning change on a housing development he held a financial stake in — even though he had signed an affidavit stating he wouldn’t profit from his decisions as a Zoning Board of Appeals member. Tress, 71, who has a previous felony conviction, faces a felony charge of first-degree offering a false instrument and a misdemeanor count of official misconduct, according to the Rockland District Attorney’s Office. Tress faces up to four years in prison if convicted of the top count.
March 16 – FBI Raids in Ramapo Target Yeshivas, Tech Businesses
FBI agents and Rockland district attorney’s office investigators fanned out across Ramapo on Wednesday with search warrants demanding that vendors and yeshivas provide records and account for equipment allegedly bought by religious schools with millions in federal education technology dollars. Agents descended around 1:30 p.m. on vendors at 21 and 29 Robert Pitt Drive, Monsey; 161 Route 59, Monsey; and 386 Route 59, Airmont to seize records. The raids began to spread in the late afternoon to yeshivas in the Monsey area. A group of FBI agents were seen outside a yeshiva at 93, 95 and 97 Highview Avenue, all converted single-family homes. They would not comment.
March 17 — Ramapo Raid Targets Area with more Yeshivas Planned
Planning Board considers three more schools in the Highview Road-Spook Rock Road area, even as one unapproved school is raided by FBI in technology fraud case. Talmud Torah OHR Yochanan went into business one morning in October 2009 when several busloads of children were dropped off at 97 Highview Road, a single-family house with a narrow one-car driveway. The school has yet to get final approval from the Ramapo Planning Board, yet it receives tuition and state assistance for more than 200 students as it operates under a temporary certificate of occupancy. The school added 93 and 97 Highview Road to its campus, plus two classroom trailers and converted the second floor into classrooms. Wednesday afternoon, the school was among the 22 places raided by FBI agents and Rockland District Attorney’s Office detectives armed with search warrants demanding vendors and yeshivas account for computer-related equipment allegedly bought by religious schools with millions in federal subsidized education technology dollars.
March 24 – Appeals Court: Ramapo Yeshiva Provided No Proof of Bias
A Ramapo yeshiva that had accused several villages of anti-Hasidic bias never provided any evidence to support its accusations, a federal appeals court ruled Wednesday in dismissing its civil rights lawsuit.
The latest decision will likely end the yeshiva’s long legal fight against Pomona, Chestnut Ridge, Wesley Hills and Montebello and their officials, according to attorney Greg Saracino, representing Pomona. “I don’t expect the yeshiva to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, as there are no novel constitutional issues at play,” Saracino said Wednesday. “It’s a clean ruling with no dissent. Simply, the plaintiffs failed to come forward with any evidence of discrimination from the villages. The case was entirely based on innuendo and opinion.” The yeshiva accused the communities of incorporating as villages to curtail the expansion of Hasidic neighborhoods through restrictive zoning.
March 25 — Patrick Farm Developer Pays $385,000 Delinquent Tax Bill
Just a day after being threatened by Rockland County with foreclosure, owners of the controversial Patrick Farm properties forked over more than $385,000 in back taxes. On Wednesday afternoon, a title insurance company representative for Scenic Development LLC dropped off two checks covering $385,426.57 in delinquent taxes, which stretch back to at least 2013. This represents money owed on three parcels along Route 306 in Ramapo near the Pomona border. The Monsey developer owns a host of other parcels on the same site.
April 6 – Ramapo Judge Alan Simon Bounced from Bench
A state watchdog panel has removed Alan Simon as a judge in Ramapo, Spring Valley and Hillburn for violations of judicial ethics, officials said Tuesday. Simon’s conduct as a judge had been under review by the state Commission on Judicial Conduct based on accusations filed against him in 2012, when he was accused of grabbing the arm of an intern for the Spring Valley Justice Court.” [Note: Simon appealed and then lost in the highest court in the State.]
April 11 – State Questions Ramapo Inspections at Private Schools
The state is calling into question several school building inspections carried out by the Ramapo fire inspector. In a March 14 letter from the state Department of Education to fire inspector Adam Peltz, department Facilities Planning Coordinator Carl Thurnau brings up multiple issues with inspections Peltz carried out at four Rockland County private schools: The Rockland Institute for Special Education, Bais Yaakov, Green Meadow Waldorf and Bais Yehuda.
April 14 – Embattled Ramapo Fire Inspector Placed on Desk Duty
Embattled Fire Inspector Adam Peltz has been placed on desk duty and prohibited from inspecting buildings for compliance with safety codes until an investigation into his work is completed, town officials said Wednesday. Peltz’s benching came after state officials accused him of failing to cite numerous violations at four private schools. The Building Department and Town attorney’s office are reviewing Peltz’s work and re-inspecting the buildings cited by the state, which inspected the schools Peltz signed off on.
April 14 – FBI Arrests Ramapo’s St. Lawrence in Corruption Probe
Federal agents and District Attorney’s Office detectives arrested Supervisor Christopher St. Lawrence Thursday morning on charges tied to the financing of the town’s controversial baseball stadium through its economic development agency.
St. Lawrence faces charges of violating federal laws. St. Lawrence, who also served as Ramapo Local Development Corporation chairman, is accused of overstating town assets when filing documents to obtain the $25 million in municipal bonds used to build Provident Bank Park off Route 45 outside Pomona in 2012.
Investigators also looked into the movement of money between the local development corporation and town accounts, including possible commingling of funds, and whether the LDC that oversaw the stadium project generated money and repaid the town.
Preet Bharara’s U.S. Attorney’s Office and the FBI had been working the case with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, which can file civil charges for violations of federal law.
April 16 – Officials: State Must Take Over Ramapo Fire Inspections
New York state officials are expected to hand down an order calling on the town to immediately enforce fire and zoning codes in buildings and schools littered with violations, or face a state takeover.
Assemblyman Kenneth Zebrowski, D-New City, said the Department of state’s Division of Building Standards and Codes is preparing to issue an order that Ramapo’s housing department take corrective action to enforce safety and fire codes.
“This is the first step in finally restoring some law and order in this town,” Zebrowski said Friday. “Over the past several years, we’ve been documenting instance after instance where the building, fire and zoning codes have been completely ignored.”
April 20 – NYS Cracks Down on Ramapo Building Inspections and Orders Compliance
State gives Ramapo Building Department a series of 10 to 30 day deadlines to meet minimum state requirements.
The state has ordered Ramapo to strengthen enforcement of fire prevention and building codes, demanding the town provide documentation and upgrade its computer system to document inspections and the results. The order from the state Division of Building Standards and Codes followed a series of re-inspections of buildings and schools across town.The order signed by Executive Deputy Secretary of State Anthony Giardina follows recent allegations by the state Department of Education that Ramapo Fire Inspector Adam Peltz ignored serious violations at four private schools and allegedly filed false reports. Peltz has been taken off inspections until an internal investigation into his work is completed, town officials said.
April 22 – Moody’s to Revisit Ramapo’s Funny Numbers
The agency responsible for checking the creditworthiness of municipalities when they want to apply for multi-million-dollar loans (municipal bonds) is Moody’s–full name, Moody’s Investors Services. Recently, the company downgraded their rating for the Town of Ramapo due to fiscal stress. Now, with the arrests of the Town Supervisor and Aaron Troodler for securities fraud, Moody’s has decided to take a second look at Ramapo books since they are the focus of 22 federal charges.
In a press release issued one day after the arrests, the ratings company announced: “Moody’s Places Ramapo, NY’s A1 GO Rating Under Review for Downgrade.” The rating will affect approximately $146 million in outstanding debt for the town.
April 22 – The Mountain of Evidence St. Lawrence’s Attorney Must Climb
Exactly one week from his last visit to the federal courthouse in White Plains, Christopher St. Lawrence returned, this time without handcuffs, in a complete suit, and forcing a smile alongside his attorney, Patrick Burke. He and co-defendant Aaron Troodler were there to sort out the details of how the mountain of evidence collected by the FBI will be made available to all their attorneys.
As reported by Gabriel Rom in The Journal News, the prosecution has more than 205,000 documents to build their criminal case against the two defendants.Troodler’s attorney, Susan Wolf, explained to Judge Cathy Seibel that she had about half a terabyte of data to hand over to the prosecution. Rom reports the total for all the material is something over 2 terabytes of information for the attorneys to examine.
April 24 – Ramapo Arrests Show Need for LDC Reform
The Journal News publishes a letter from the NYS Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli. Given the turn of events in the Town of Ramapo related to the questionable financing of a minor-league baseball stadium, is there any doubt New York’s local development corporations need more oversight? Commonly known as LDCs, these entities are private, not-for-profit corporations often created by, or for the benefit of, New York’s counties, cities, towns and villages to spur economic growth or serve other public purposes. In many cases, LDCs are used for economic development such as rehabilitating industrial plants or encouraging businesses to locate or stay in a particular region.
April 24 – Lawsuit: Ramapo Sold Property in Monsey It Didn’t Own
Ramapo has been selling surplus land to raise millions of dollars for the town’s depleted coffers — including one property the town apparently didn’t own. River Equity Holdings in Monsey has now taken legal action against Ramapo and developer Mayer Jacobowitz to vacate the June sale. Jacobowitz bought the 15,181-square-foot parcel at 102a Saddle River Road for $195,000.
May 5 – Ramapo Ex-Chief’s Side Job Questioned
Ramapo’s ex-police chief, who had been the highest paid local public employee in the state, also ran a private security firm on the side, using town resources, a Journal News/lohud.com investigation has found.
Peter Brower, who raked in roughly $369,000 a year, used his Police Department secretary to prepare payroll for his private business, he testified in 2014. Brower also testified that he “possibly” used telephones in the Police Department for the job.
Asked by The Journal News whether he did a second job while working as police chief, Brower said, “That may or may not be so.”
When asked again, he said, “That may or may not be so, but is there anything illegal about that?”
May 13 – Ramapo Auditing Firm Wants Out
Today, The Journal News is reporting that the auditing firm that has been annually checking St. Lawrence’s books for many years wants out. “Ramapo’s outside auditors say they are quitting their work for the town, apparently spooked by a federal indictment accusing Supervisor Christopher St. Lawrence and others of “cooking the books” to make it appear the town was in healthy financial shape when it actually was hemorrhaging millions of dollars. PKF O’Connor Davies, one of the region’s biggest accounting firms, said it was dropping Ramapo — effective immediately — in an April 28 letter to St. Lawrence and Town Board members.” What is not addressed in the letter is O’Connor Davies’ possible complicity in allowing fraud to continue under their watch, despite being told of its existence by a whistleblower from within the town finance department.
May 22 – Moody’s Drops Ramapo Down Two Grades
Moody’s Investors Service has downgraded the Town of Ramapo, NY’s general obligation debt to A3 from A1. The outlook has been revised to developing. This action concludes the review for downgrade initiated on April, 15 2016, and affects $146 million of outstanding direct GO and GO-backed debt. The downgrade to A3 reflects the degree of increased risk stemming from the charges brought by the US Justice Department and the SEC, which have resulted in near-term disruption in management and a likely delay in financial reporting and disclosure.
June 3 – Yeshivas Deny Access for Fire Inspectors as Court Cases Loom
Rockland inspectors were denied access to most yeshivas overdue for fire and safety code inspections on Thursday, as a standoff grew between the private religious schools and the county executive.
June 9 – Spring Valley Home Cited After Woman Sickened
Mirna Ramos’s near-death experience from a carbon monoxide incident just after her family moved into a Jay Street house on June 2 has the property’s manager set to answer to numerous violations at both the county and local level.
June 13 – Shimmy, Chris, and Tony
A builder is being accused by his neighbors of potentially building more apartments than approved by Ramapo planners at a large housing complex on the former Temple Beth El property along Viola Road.
The legal action accuses the Ramapo chief building inspector of allowing the construction to continue and even conditionally approving the additional living space in violation of approved plans. While Ramapo officials acknowledge builder Shimmy Galanduer violated approved plans, his fellow Orthodox Jewish neighbors are demanding in their legal action that a judge stop construction and order remediation, including possibly tearing down the buildings. Developer Ephraim Grossman owns the property under Viola Gardens LLC.”
June 17 – Spring Valley Inspector: Park View Homes Violate Plans with Religious Adds
A townhouse development already under investigation now faces local violations for allegedly adding a school and place of worship. Spring Valley Chief Building Inspector Walter Booker said Thursday that the school and synagogue violate the approved site plan for the three-story stone buildings at Main Street and Maple Avenue known as the Park View Condominiums. They were built as part of the village’s downtown urban renewal.
July 4 – Cuomo Signs East Ramapo Oversight Bill
Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a bill Thursday giving the state greater oversight of the deeply divided East Ramapo school system, with the district getting a $3 million boost in state funds. The new law, which takes effect Friday, will allow state Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia to appoint three monitors to oversee the Rockland County district, with the school board required to submit its budget proposal to the state for approval before putting it out to a vote.
July 6 – Ramapo Pays Energy Consultant $75G to End Lawsuit Alleging Fraud
“Ramapo must shell out at least $75,000 to a Tarrytown energy procurement consultant who accused some town officials of fraud and retaliation against his business. Christopher Schiller claimed in a federal civil rights lawsuit that Ramapo undercut his company by turning over his exclusive contract providing energy sources to another company. Schiller’s lawsuit alleges the town policy was to attack the reputation of any person or company that challenged its improper procedures.
July 11 – New Hempstead Yeshiva Operating Without Permits for Years
Mesivta Ahavas Hatorah has been operating a boys’ religious school in the village since about 2013. But it has been running without permits because the property at 720 Union Road never received permits, or a certificate of occupancy, to operate as a school — nor did the previous tenants who also had schools there since about 2006, according to village documents.
July 13 – Possible Subject in Federal Probe Is Also a Special Assistant to the DA
The photograph is from the FBI, and it’s marked “Evidence”. The caption as it appeared in The Journal News was Rabbi Zalman Beck and state Sen. Malcolm Smith outside L’chaim Manor in Monsey on April 26, 2012. They would be joined by FBI cooperator Moses Stern. Malcolm Smith is currently serving a seven-year sentence in a Federal prison in Pennsylvania, and Moses Stern waits as the information he gathered against other suspects is still being balanced against his impending sentencing for his part in a $126 million fraud scheme against Citigroup.
That leaves Rabbi Zalman Beck whose role in this part of the federal investigation remains unclear.
July 18 – State Investigates Ramapo Valley Ambulance Corps
A litany of complaints against one of the largest ambulance service providers in Rockland County, including allegations of retaliatory suspensions and firings, has triggered a state probe, The Journal News/lohud has learned.
The probe by the state Department of Labor comes during an independent investigation by The Journal News/lohud looking into similar allegations against leaders of the Ramapo Valley Ambulance Corps. Among other issues cited in a complaint from RVAC members was the allegation that RVAC leaders hid their personal ties to a company they contracted to manage paid staffing needs. Up to 15 RVAC members say that corps leaders have run much of the staffing company’s daily operations, despite paying the new company to assume those duties.
July 19 – DA’s Ultra-Orthodox Special Assistant Resigns
On July 13th, Preserve Ramapo posted a copy of the document that appointed Rabbi Zalmen Beck as a Special Assistant to the District Attorney. The Journal News had recently published an article in which Beck’s name surfaced in both the reporter’s account of Judge Sherri Eisenpress and an FBI campaign finance sting and the Malcolm Smith investigation.
It is our belief Beck’s letter of resignation was penned July 14, and it begins “RE: Discontinuation of service.” Beck says he is surrendering his credentials and “discontinuing my services to your office effective immediately.” He thanked the District Attorney for the opportunity to serve the public and offered as a reason for his resignation “the attention being paid to my position undermines my effectiveness, and impacts my ability to serve.”
August 15 – State Ed Dept. Names Chuck Szuberla as East Ramapo Monitor
State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia today appointed Charles Szuberla as monitor for the East Ramapo Central School District. Szuberla, a well-known former Deputy Commissioner who served the Department for 29 years before his retirement in late 2015, will lead the Department’s continuing efforts to provide enhanced communication with the East Ramapo community through greater outreach to students, parents and stakeholders. He will be supported by Dr. John W. Sipple, a Cornell University professor who continues in his role as monitor, specializing in budgeting and fiscal matters.
August 25 – East Ramapo Trustee Accused of Using Phony Address
Calls for the resignation of a newly-appointed member of the East Ramapo School Board are mounting amid accusations that the trustee does not live at his reported address. Since Joe Chajmovicz’s appointment to a vacant seat in July, the school board has been criticized for naming someone not widely known to the public school community, and district parents have demanded he step down to allow for someone with ties to local education be named. One of those parents, Romel Alvarez, said this past weekend, a group of about 15 people went to an address in Airmont, on Fawn Hill Drive, that Chajmovicz claims is his home, but discovered a family was renting it out.
August 31 – Imprisoned Noramie Jasmin Loses Appeal of Bribe-taking Conviction
Former Spring Valley Mayor Noramie Jasmin is staying in prison after a federal appeals court denied an appeal of her bribe-taking conviction in April 2015. Jasmin, a Democrat-elected Spring Valley official for more than a decade and mayor from 2008 to 2013, is serving a four-year sentence that started in February 2016 for corruption after selling her vote on a proposed community center and catering hall.
September 1 – Ramapo Samuel Tress Expected to Resign, Plead Guilty
Ramapo Councilman Samuel “Shmuel” Tress is expected as soon as tonight to resign from office and plead guilty to official misconduct, according to sources familiar with the case. The plea deal, which would drop a felony charge, would likely enable Tress to avoid jail time in the case. Tress, 71, a Democrat who won election in November despite a federal mail fraud conviction, is accused of voting for a zone change on a housing development he held a financial stake in — even though he had signed an affidavit stating he wouldn’t profit from his decisions as a Zoning Board of Appeals member.
September 2 – Ramapo Trexit
By the time he arrived at Airmont Village Court, at 5:10 this afternoon, Ramapo Board Member Shmuel (a.k.a Samuel) Tress had already submitted his resignation to the board, to which he had only recently been elected in January. It was the shortest term in recent memory and was part of a plea agreement to satisfy a felony and Class A misdemeanor charge. Tress resigned this morning according to Chief Ramapo Attorney Michael Klein, who, himself, is facing more than 20 federal charges brought by the Securities and Exchange Commission.
September 15 – Ramapo Chief Building Inspector Anthony Mallia Arrested
Chief Building Inspector Anthony Mallia was arrested tonight on 100 felony charges alleging he gave builders cut-rate fees, depriving the town taxpayers of more than $100,000. Mallia’s year-long scheme involved falsifying building permits and grossly undercharging contractors seeking permits, Rockland District Attorney Thomas Zugibe charged. The lost money is based upon the estimated cost of 33 new residential construction projects during 2015.
Zugibe said the elaborate scheme allegedly orchestrated by Mallia sidestepped public safety. Rockland District Attorney’s Office detectives combed through Ramapo Building Department records to make the case, he said.
September 18 – Public Hearing on ‘Blockbusting’ in Rockland set
State considers imposing a cease and desist zone in Rockland to stop unwanted solicitation.
Rising reports from homeowners of high-pressure and intimidating real estate tactics will be addressed during a state public hearing on Wednesday.The Department of State’s Division of Licensing Services will hold the meeting from 6 to 9 p.m. on Wednesday at Rockland County Community College, at 145 College Road in Suffern.
September 26 – Ramapo Eyes Private Firm to Run Planning, Zoning
“With Chief Building Inspector Anthony Mallia suspended from his town post due to pending criminal charges, Ramapo officials are looking at contracting with an engineering company to handle issues involving construction projects and developers. The Laberge Group would be hired to perform the building and zoning work on a month-to-month basis while Mallia is facing a corruption case put together by the Rockland District Attorney’s Office, Supervisor Christopher St. Lawrence said Friday. Laberge Group has been asked to put together a proposal under which it would handle all projects before the town planning and zoning boards. The group also would review the fees charged for construction, which have not changed since 1995, he said.
October 7 – Ramapo to Increase Taxes by 58 Times the State Tax Cap
St. Lawrence told the Journal reporter that the state tax cap is 0.12 percent. The Supervisor’s proposed $102 million budget for 2017 contains a 5% to 7% tax rate increase. That’s about 58 times the adjusted cap for the Town of Ramapo.
October 21 – Neighbors Tell Court Builder Sneaked in Extra Apartment Spots
The builder of Viola Estates stealthily built space for illegal accessory apartments in the basements and upper floors of townhouses contrary to site plans approved by the Ramapo Planning Board, an attorney for neighbors told a judge on Thursday.
The neighbors want the judge to close down construction of the 44-home development after they say an on-site inspection report they commissioned found unapproved space for accessory apartments, evidenced by separate multiple plumbing, gas and electrical systems, separate water heaters and boilers.
October 31 – SEC Fines and Sanctions Consolo and O’Connor Davies for Ramapo Fraudulent Filing
The Securities and Exchange Commission today announced that a New York-based audit firm and a senior partner agreed to settle charges that they issued fraudulent audit reports in connection with municipal bond offerings by the town of Ramapo, N.Y., and its local development corporation. The SEC’s order finds that PKF O’Connor Davies and Domenick F. Consolo allowed Ramapo to record a $3.08 million receivable in its general fund for a property sale that Consolo knew had not occurred.
November 2 – County Exec Calls for Firing of Disgraced Ramapo Audit Firm
Apparently, the stink attached to Ramapo’s auditor fraud, made redolent with fines and sanctions from the SEC, has motivated other local clients of O’Connor Davies to skip the clothespins and go directly to showing the auditing firm the door. In a press release yesterday, County Executive Ed Day is asking the County Legislature to open the windows and fire PKF O’Connor Davies. The company has three contracts with the County for $1 million.
November 3 – Ballpark Audit Firm Shown the Door at County—ERCSD Next
The second shoe has dropped. As the County Legislature prepared to make way for the removal of the auditing firm tainted by the federal fraud charges filed against Ramapo, the company decided to quit before they could be fired. Next is an account that needs some serious additional scrutiny. O’Connor Davies has done the East Ramapo audits for a school board already accused of misplacing millions.
November 6 – St. Lawrence Corruption Trial Delayed until April
“The anticipated federal corruption trial against Ramapo Supervisor Christopher St. Lawrence and a former top economic development aide has been rescheduled for April, with the judge promising no more delays, court documents say. St. Lawrence, a Democrat and the town’s 16-year supervisor, and former deputy town attorney Aaron Troodler face charges of securities and wire fraud and conspiracy involving the financing of the town’s baseball stadium and other projects developed through the Ramapo Local Development Corp. Troodler served as the quasi-government’s executive director, while St. Lawrence chaired the agency’s three-member board.
November 21 – Channel 4 Reports on Illegal School Conversions in Ramapo
Homes in the Rockland County town of Ramapo claim town officials are allowing single-family homes on small residential lots to be turned into religious schools with little or no public notice.
November 30 – Bharara Agrees to Stay as U.S. Attorney
U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said Wednesday he plans to stay in his position in the Trump administration. Bharara emerged from Trump Tower after meeting with the president-elect for about an hour, saying he has agreed to remain in the job.
December 16 – Builders Tried to Rig a Vote and Take Over a Village, US Indictment Says
From the New York Times: As prosecutors painted it, the scheme seemed logical enough: If a rustic village in upstate New York would not approve a townhouse development that would more than quadruple its size, then bring in new residents, register them to vote and elect a new village board.
But the developers, according to an indictment unsealed on Thursday, took shortcuts that made the scheme easy to pick apart as fraudulent: They placed toothbrushes and toothpaste in apartments when no one was actually living there. They backdated leases to roughly the same period — the 30 days before the 2014 election required to establish legal residency for voting. They opened bank accounts and picked up mail at unoccupied home addresses. They arranged for bribes to scores of people to travel to the community to register to vote.
One of the developers charged is Kenneth Nakdimen of Monsey. The others are Shalom Lamm and Volvy Smilowitz, a/k/a Zev Smilowitz.
December 19 – Monitors to Oversee Building Departments in Ramapo, Spring Valley
“The state is appointing monitors with investigative authority to oversee the building departments in Ramapo and Spring Valley after years of fielding complaints from officials and first responders about the potentially dangerous lack of fire safety and zoning enforcement in those communities.
The state acted after several years of pressure from Assemblyman Kenneth Zebrowski, D-New City, Rockland County Executive Ed Day and the Rockland Illegal Housing Task Force leaders. They have called for the state to potentially take over the inspection duties in Ramapo and Spring Valley.
The monitors will be assigned because the communities have not done enough to comply with state regulations, state Department of State spokesman Laz Benitiz said Monday.
December 24 – Citizen’s Legal Action to Oust Mayor Delhomme Moves to Trial
A nearly 2-year-old citizens’ legal action seeking to oust Mayor Demeza Delhomme from office on allegations of malfeasance goes before a hearing officer in 2017. The Supreme Court’s Appellate Division in Brooklyn assigned retired jurist Nicholas Colabella to possibly hear testimony and then issue a report and recommendation. An appellate panel would then rule on the issue of Delhomme remaining mayor of Rockland’s largest village.
December 27 – State Shows Up 13 Years Late
The headline in last Monday’s The Journal News read “Ramapo: State’s powers over building, fire inspections detailed.” Ramapo and Spring Valley now have State watchdogs “assigned to monitor the Ramapo Building Department [with] access to department records and [the power to] direct inspectors to address critical threats to life and public safety.” A proper subhead for the story could have been: “It’s about time.” The effort by local firefighters to get someone to step in and enforce the fire code regulations in the Town of Ramapo has been going on, literally, for decades. Standing in the way have been the federally indicted Christopher St. Lawrence, the Ramapo Town Board, and the bloc vote that keeps all of them in Town Hall.
December 29 — Resident Fights Ramapo Law Allowing Schools Without Final Approval
Peter Katz has become the first Ramapo resident to take the town to court for permitting the conversion of a single-family house into a school without approved site plans and other permits.
Katz argues in his legal action that Chief Building Inspector Anthony Mallia arbitrarily issued a temporary building permit for Congregation Yeshiva Zera Yakov to open a school at 101 Carlton Road and the Ramapo Zoning Board of Appeals incorrectly upheld Mallia’s decision as valid under town zoning law.
And so we come to the beginning of 2017—hopefully, a year of convictions and expanding investigations.