“A federal judge who oversaw Ramapo Supervisor Christopher St. Lawrence’s corruption trial ruled Tuesday that a key witness’ civil lawsuit can go forward claiming Ramapo officials defamed and retaliated against her for cooperating with the FBI and prosecutors.
In a two-hour oral decision from the bench, U.S. District Court Judge Cathy Seibel found that Melissa Reimer’s contact with the FBI was protected speech under the Constitution’s First Amendment.
She also ruled a jury can hear defamation charges against St. Lawrence, Town Attorney Michael Klein and Deputy Town Attorney Beth Finkelstein, who oversaw Reimer’s town disciplinary cases leading to her suspension.
Seibel found that St. Lawrence and Klein wrote a press release that likely tainted Reimer’s reputation as an accountant by blaming her for the state Comptroller’s Office listing Ramapo as a distressed municipality in 2013. The press release stated Reimer failed to include $3.5 million in potential revenues in a statement to the comptroller, because the revenues were not available.
The judge also ruled St. Lawrence made derogatory comments about Reimer on his radio program when questioned by a caller about the town’s financial state. St. Lawrence, the judge found, blamed Reimer, potentially sullying her reputation as a certified public accountant.
The judge found Reimer had essential played the role of a whistleblower, reporting what she felt were improper and illegal financial acts by St. Lawrence and other town officials, such is lying on bond documents about the town’s general fund balance to deceive investors.
Reimer’s lawyer Fred Lichtmacher praised Seibel’s decision, noting she cited hundreds of cases to support her conclusions.
“Hopefully now Melissa Reimer can be celebrated as the heroine that she is,” Lichtmacher said outside court. “This is a person who came forward to be responsible.”
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