It was the second public meeting of the Ramapo Town Board since the arrests and filing of federal charges against the supervisor and three others in town government. At the first meeting, the public was not allowed to offer public comment. At this meeting, Wednesday May 11, they could, and they did.
The meeting hall was packed, and the overflow was escorted to another meeting room where a monitor was set up to show the proceedings. Ramapo police monitored the crowds in both areas. It was scheduled to begin at eight, and around 7:45, the first two officials made their way through the crowd outside the door. St. Lawrence and board member Yitzchok Ullman were the first to arrive and the room exploded with jeers and shrill comments.
Supporters from the bloc stood up and began a chant “Four more years,” which was drowned out by an even louder “Twen-ty-Years, Twen-ty-Years,” referring, one would guess, to the crowd’s consensus on what the proper sentence should be for the accused. At this point, the other board members had not come in, but that did not deter the crowd from raising a chant that filled the room: “They all gotta go.”
Nate Oberman, the indicted financial officer, and Mona Montal, the purchasing officer, sat on a side aisle. Brendel Logan Charles came in with a police escort at 7:55, and she was followed by board member Pat Withers. Booing and shouts of “You’re next, Brendel” echoed in the room.
Michael Klein, also indicted by the U.S. Attorney was one of the last in.
Added now to the crowd’s angry repertoire was the echoing demand: “Where is Tress–Where is Tress?” They were referring to Samuel (Shmuel) Tress who has become a phantom board member ever since the DA indicted him on felony charges a little over a month ago. He has not attended a board meeting since, and the word is that he is spending most of his time in his home in Lakewood, N.J., where he has a business.
Some semblance of order was arrived at when the pledge of allegiance was recited to begin the meeting. The normal business for the evening’s meeting began, and with only sporadic interruptions, the 31 items were rapidly called and voted on.
One exception that drew loud disapproval from the assembly was the decision about Ramapo fire inspector Adam Peltz. Despite admitting he submitted bogus safety reports for a number of private schools (amounting to “misconduct and dereliction”), Peltz was punished with a 30-day (possibly 60-day) suspension and a demotion to assistant fire inspector. A shouted “He’ll be a State’s Witness, eh Chris?” proposed one possible explanation for his not being fired, and that was followed by shouts of Vote No! The Board members didn’t listen. Despite the fact that Peltz admitted that he was willing to jeopardize the lives of small children for whatever personal motives controlled him, he was, in effect, reinstated. The board had spoken: no injured, no dead–no harm, no foul.
Public Participation is Opened
Next, the board moved to the main event–everyone’s three minutes to empty their spleen or pile on the accusations. Throughout the long parade to the microphone that followed, St. Lawrence, with unchanging dead eyes, maintained a thousand-yard stare as his legacy was publicly reduced to shreds and patches. There was one moment when a sophomore from Suffern High School stepped to the podium, and before she began her remarks, she asked, “Would you please look at me while I’m talking to you?”
Unlike other meetings when he would threaten the audience that he would have the police remove anyone not behaving properly, he didn’t here. The police were present in force, but he just stared.
Many of the comments pointed out the divisiveness of St. Lawrence’s administration, the disregard for the whole community for the sake of one faction, and the destruction of the quality of life in the Town. All to advance his own personal political career, and to enrich the developers who give the orders within the bloc community. One speaker turned and pointed to the turmoil in the room and said the supervisor, “This is your legacy.”
Bob Romanowski, one of the final speakers, offered a very direct solution. He asked Withers, Ullman and Logan-Charles to vote to remove or censure the Supervisor and then order a complete, objective audit of the Town’s books. He finished with a very pointed question. Preet Bharara, he said, wrote in his indictment papers that the supervisor of the town had cooked the books for years. Addressing the board members, he asked, “Where were you when he was cooking the books?”
The protesters told the media that they would be back for the next meeting.