On Friday, September 8, Melissa Reimer’s attorney sent a letter to the Ramapo Town Board demanding that his client be immediately allowed to return to Town Hall and to resume her responsibilities as the Supervisor of Finances. It has been 4 ½ years since she was ordered on administrative leave by an Administrative Law Judge, Jonas Gelb, who had been persuaded by a parade of witness who have themselves subsequently been indicted, convicted, and or sanctioned and fined by other legal administrators in courts operating at levels far above the hearing room at Ramapo Town Hall where Gelb arrived at his flawed decision.
The list of those who appeared at the disciplinary hearings or colluded in the attempt to punish Reimer for her cooperation with the FBI and the Justice Department provides an insight into the endemic corruption of Ramapo town government under Christopher St. Lawrence.
There’s little doubt that the architect of the payback was none other than the central target of the FBI investigation. Christopher St. Lawrence was the most damaged by the evidence supplied by his Finance Supervisor, and therefore he had the clearest motive for revenge. More than any other single person, Melissa Reimer was the most responsible for collapsing his corrupt enterprise. St. Lawrence was found guilty of 20 out of 22 federal felony counts, and now he awaits sentencing on November 27. It’s possible he could spend the remainder of his life in federal prison—the maximum sentence for the 20 felonies totals 385 years. And St. Lawrence still faces two more trials; one in Federal Court (22 SEC charges) and the civil suit charging defamation brought by Reimer and her attorney Fred Lichtmacher.
Domenick Consolo, a featured witness who appeared at Gelb’s hearing is a partner on the Town’s auditing firm O’Connor Davies, LLP. Reimer tried to warn him and his auditors of the fraudulent numbers submitted by the Supervisor and she was told: Shut up (by the auditors), and Just do what it takes to make the Supervisor happy (by Nathan Oberman), and, by a town attorney, she was advised, If you don’t like it here, quit.
Ultimately, Melissa was found to be telling the truth, and as a result of an SEC proceeding, that federal agency came down hard on Consolo and his auditing firm. The firm agreed to forfeit approximately $380,000 in audit fees and interest and pay a $100,000 penalty. O’Connor Davies was ordered to engage an independent consultant. Consolo agreed to pay a $75,000 penalty, and he was suspended from practicing public company accounting. He’s also prohibited from acting as the engagement partner or engagement quality control reviewer on any municipal audit for five years. The SEC concluded its 19-page list of sanctions with a warning: “O’Connor Davies shall cease and desist from committing or causing any violations and any future violations of Sections 17 of the Securities Act.” The auditing firm was fired by the Town, and it consequently lost a number of other lucrative, long-term contracts elsewhere in the county.
(For a detailed narrative of the Gelb hearing, read “An Accountant, an Auditor, and the Attorney–Melissa Reimer’s Disciplinary Hearing Final.”)
Ramapo lead Town Attorny Michael Klein also appeared at the hearing on behalf of the effort to get rid of Melissa. During the hearing, his responses to Lichtmacher’s cross-examination created an almost laughable litany of “I don’t recall,” “I don’t remember, I don’t recall.” Today, Michael Klein faces an SEC trial to answer the 22 federal counts brought against him, relating to his complicit behavior in the bond fraud matter. The charges are civil, and with what appears to be a very likely negative outcome, he will probably face significant fines and disbarment. He will face those charges alongside the already convicted St. Lawrence and Aron Troodler, as well as Nathan Oberman.
And these are not the only players affected in recent related litigation. The Rockland District Attorney’s office has removed Samuel Tress from the Town Board after he plead guilty to charges, and Anthony Mallea will soon be sentenced for his crimes in the Building and Planning Department at Town Hall.
And yet, the sole voice who had the courage to stand up against this criminal enterprise remains banished from her position in the finance department, where she understood and took seriously the obligations of her public position and the ethical requirements of her CPA certification. Those who orchestrated Gelb’s hearing to force her out, are themselves now heading to prison, or have been fined and/or fired, or are still facing lengthy court actions. And Melissa Reimer remains suspended for having the courage to risk her career in order to do what was lawful.
Right after the St. Lawrence convictions and the reorganization of the Town Board there was a call from one board member to correct the situation. As members were discussing how to fix the RLDC debacle and get valid financial reports for the last two years, councilman Pat Withers included the following demand among several other suggestions: “I am calling for the reinstatement of Melissa Reimer, immediately.” View the YouTube video of his announcement at the May Board meeting at www.youtube.com/watch?v=7QgbEmAu5gU&app=desktop. Other changes have been put in motion, but Melissa’s situation has not been made right.
Here’s the complete text of the letter Mr. Lichtmacher sent to the Board last week:
The Law Office of
Fred Lichtmacher, p.c.
116 WEST 23RD STREET – SUITE 500
NEW YORK, NEW YORK 10011
Town of Ramapo Town Board c/o Steven C. Stern Sokoloff Stern LLP
Re: Melissa Reimer
Town of Ramapo Town Board:
I represent Melissa Reimer. On June 5, 2013 Ms. Reimer, the Supervisor of Fiscal Services, was placed on paid administrative leave. This action was taken after, what putting it euphemistically, could be at best described as a dubious finding by an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). The ALJ, appointed by the Board, recommended Ms. Reimer be terminated. In reality, Ms. Reimer was being retaliated against for working with the FBI in reporting illegal acts by Town of Ramapo employees. Ms. Reimer’s cooperation with law enforcement contributed to the then Town Supervisor being convicted of twenty (20) felonies. Said acts were being ignored by numerous Town employees and Town attorneys to whom they were reported. As of this date, almost 4.5 years later, Ms. Reimer is still on paid administrative leave. Ironically, most of the Town employees and attorneys to whom Ms. Reimer reported the nefarious activities, are still allowed to work at Town Hall, while Ms. Reimer is not.
I write to demand that Ms. Reimer be immediately allowed to return to Town Hall and to resume her responsibilities as the Supervisor of Fiscal Services.
To continue to preclude Ms. Reimer from working is to further inflict economic harm upon the Town. Additionally, the delay in acting to either terminate or restore Ms. Reimer, is making it increasingly difficult and nearly impossible for Ms. Reimer to find comparable employment. Ms. Reimer is almost fifty (50) years old and her chances of finding gainful employment, if she were to be terminated now, have greatly diminished since she was placed on administrative leave.
Therefore, for the benefit of both Ms. Reimer and the Town, which has been financially burdened by paying her salary without receiving the benefit of her expertise, and which has been greatly damaged by the corruption she aided in exposing and hopefully ending, Ms. Reimer demands she be immediately allowed to return to Town Hall to resume her work as the Supervisor of Fiscal Services.
Ms. Reimer is ready to return to work within one week’s notice of her being restored and the judgment of the ALJ being vacated.
If we do not receive a response within one week, we will treat the lack of response as a refusal of this demand.
Very truly yours,
I’m not that good at reading legal nuance, but it seems to me that the last paragraph does set up an actionable situation if the board refuses to reinstate Melissa Reimer. Apart from that, the continuing disgrace of this administration punishing the whistleblower who should be congratulated for having help topple the rotten mess that was the previous administration is both inexcusable and incomprehensible.