The problem was pretty straightforward. The more than 20 yeshivas identified by the New York State Education Department as lacking the required fire safety inspections were about to be inspected by Rockland County fire safety officials on Wednesday. The County was going to do it because the State asked them to. Previous inspections by the Town of Ramapo were found to be dangerously deficient. So much so that the fire inspector, Adam Peltz, was removed from his position.
Incidentally, this is not a new problem. Fully three years ago, Preserve Ramapo reported on the same situation in an April 6, 2013, story: “65 Rockland Non-public Schools Did Not File Fire Inspection Certificates in 2013—88% are in Ramapo”.
You can read the names and locations of all the schools, just go to our archive at http://preserveramapo.com/PreserveRamapo%202014/65_rockland_nonpublic_schools_lack_fire_inspections.htm. The sad reality is that for some school administrators, not bothering with fire inspections is a perennial failing, and the overwhelming majority of the violators are in Monsey and Spring Valley.
But back to this year’s version of the story. At this point, some of the schools really don’t want the County to do the inspections, and the State Board of Ed doesn’t want Ramapo and its near-sighted Peltz doing the inspections, so what do you do?
Well, the schools, or a certain number of unnamed schools, form a coalition and hire Nyack attorney Dennis Lynch to delay, while trying to find a solution. Why do these schools insist on remaining anonymous? Guess you have to ask Lynch. By the way, if you do, you might also ask Mr. Lynch, who was recently hired by St. Lawrence to work in the Legal Department in the Town of Ramapo, whether he thinks there’s any conflict of interest involved here as a Town of Ramapo attorney (Lynch) starts cashing checks from a religious school coalition in its fight against the State Board of Ed that has just removed Ramapo from the inspection business. Probably cashes those checks at the same bank where he cashes his checks drawn against the taxpayers of Ramapo.
OK, so Lynch writes a letter. In it he accuses County Exec. Ed Day of wanting to limit the growth of private schools, and he says Day is prejudiced and claims his language is inflammatory. The schools meanwhile, continue operating, uncertified.
On Friday, Lynch threatens Day with legal action. Lynch also says he is demanding a meeting with State Education Commissioner Elia.
Day explains that if the fire inspectors are prevented from entry on Monday, the inspectors will inform the school administrator that they are violating the law, and that he, Day, will then go to court for orders sufficient to provide access for the inspectors.
So what’s the end move? County fire safety inspectors are coming Monday. Lynch and his “coalition” need a viable Plan B. More letters follow between Lynch and the County attorney.
And then, on Sunday, June 5, Lynch sends a letter with a compromise proposal. Here’s part of what he wrote:
“Finally, this letter will confirm that none of the Religious Schools referenced in your June 3, letter sen[t] during Shabbos preparation will consent to any inspection this Monday morning. As an alternative to a confrontation tomorrow, however, if you provide to me tomorrow (1) a copy of any order by the Commissioner delegating her statutory powers to others; (2) the names and certifications of those who will actually be conducting the inspections as permitted by Education Law; (3) the order and times in which any inspections are to be conducted, I will review same with my clients immediately and all such inspections done at reasonable times can begin as early as this Wednesday, June 8, 2016 at 9:00AM (Lynch’s underlining here). Our goal from the beginning has been to allow all such lawful inspections. The process as set forth in this letter accomplishes that goal for all good people involved.
Thank you for your time and hopeful amicable resolutions of this matter. Very truly yours, Dennis E.A. Lynch”
Alright, there it is, Plan B—problem solved. And it’s done amicably, guaranteed by the honorable weight of the word of the “coalition’s” attorney.
Very nice result, especially when you consider this is all happening in Ramapo.
Then. . . a new coalition emerges. It’s the Town of Ramapo working with the Village of Kaser in Monsey, and these two shove everything else aside. And in the background, unseen, Ramapo and Kaser start to act.
Late Tuesday, June 7, Steve Lieberman reports the results on LoHud online with:
Yeshivas turn to Ramapo for clearance, sidestep county inspections
“More than 20 yeshivas targeted by the New York state Education Department for overdue fire-safety inspections turned to Ramapo and Kaser officials this week to get their paperwork done, sidestepping attempts by the county to send its own team into the facilities for review.
Education Department spokeswoman Jeanne Beattie said in an email that 22 schools have filed inspection reports done by either private inspections or Ramapo inspectors. The filings mean the schools won’t be required to be inspected by the county.
The Education Department had deputized Rockland to review between 49 and 53 schools, some of which had not filed fire safety certificates for several years.”
Wait a minute. That’s the original Plan A. Have Ramapo cover for the school’s that are standing in violation of the state law. But who did the inspections? Peltz had turned in his bogus inspections during Plan A, and you saw what happened to him.
Maybe someone should check with Anthony Mallia. He seems to be in the center of a lot of controversy recently. Journal reporter Steve Lieberman did. Here’s what he got:
“Day said he’s been told Ramapo Chief Building Inspector Anthony Mallia and Kaser Building Inspector Bill Press, formerly the New Square inspector, were involved in the new school inspections.
Mallia said in an email he didn’t sign off or personally take part, but acknowledged his staff did.”
Nice to see that Anthony didn’t sign off on the inspections, because he was the one who signed off on the bogus ones submitted by Peltz. But he doesn’t identify the inspectors. About Bill Press, the former New Square inspector—The Jewish Forward reported in 2011 about fire safety in New Square: “When state safety code enforcement official Roy Scott paid a rare visit to New Square in November 2003, he discovered that the village had not even adopted a state-approved fire code or filed for an exemption. ‘The violations in the Village of New Square are probably the worst example in our state’s history of noncompliance with state codes,’ Scott said then in a letter to the commissioners of the fire district responsible for New Square.” The reporter then quoted Scott about a problem with access: “Mr. Scott said he can go to any village or town in New York State to inspect structures, but he needs permission to go to New Square.”
Steve Lieberman, in his article, also recorded Ed Day’s reaction to the dodge: ‘It’s beyond comprehension that after identifying Ramapo’s inability to properly perform inspections, suddenly their work is approved,’ Day said.”
There are quite a few questions just hanging out there in mid-air right now. Here’s a few:
Did attorney Dennis Lynch know that there was a plan to put the County inspectors off until Wednesday, promising them access and then rushing to inspect the schools using a Kaser inspector and Ramapo inspector(s)?
Did Lynch believe that his compromise offer of Wednesday inspections by the County fire officials, the agency approved by the State Board of Ed, was legitimate, and not a stall.
If at any point, Lynch knowingly misrepresented the facts he presented to public officials, should he be removed from the Ramapo Attorney’s Office (remember, we already have two indicted lawyers of our own). If he didn’t know what was going on, should he be removed simply because he’s too easily played?
When were the inspections done? And by whom at what locations?
If Mallia didn’t sign off on these inspections, who did?
Did the State Board of Ed officials accept the more than 20 certifications without question from Ramapo? If they did, you might wonder whether they remembered the last set of papers submitted through the Ramapo inspection process.
Is the indicted Supervisor of Ramapo’s fingerprints anywhere on any of the documents or communications?
And there are more questions. But for now we just need patience. The New York State law regarding these inspections require that the schools inspected make the paperwork available to anyone in the public who requests to see them. That would even include Channel 12 coming back to see the documents at the schools which they were turned away from. And of course our FOILs are already in at State and locally. We’ll let you know who signed what, when, and where. And also whether there is any possibility of filing false instrument problems. You might recall there’s a sitting member of the Ramapo Town Board now awaiting trial on his felony charge of filing a false instrument.