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.
St. Lawrence’s critics, including the grassroots political party Preserve Ramapo, have accused him of manipulating financial regulations and laws to get the stadium built. They forced a public vote on the ballpark and filed lawsuits to try to block its construction, claiming the town would lose millions of dollars.
On Aug. 25, 2010, Ramapo voters overwhelmingly rejected a $16.5 million plan to finance the construction of the 4,500-seat baseball stadium for a team in the independent Can-Am League. The stadium had been known as “Project Grand Slam,” with a $20 to $25 million price tag. But the price ballooned to more than $60 million, according to a critical New York state Comptroller’s audit.
St. Lawrence promised not to use town funds for the stadium after the referendum defeat. But he then used the town to guarantee $25 million in bonds over five years issued for the LDC. The five-year period bypassed the law allowing for a public vote, a decision upheld by a state judge, who declined to stop construction of the ballpark and stadium.
St. Lawrence became the second Town Board member arrested within the past month. On March 4, the Rockland District Attorney’s Office charged Councilman Samuel Tress with felony counts accusing him of voting for a zoning change on a housing development in which he held a financial stake.
Read the complete Journal News story here.
Look for more coverage later today.