St. Lawrence trial, day 10 May 4, 2017
Leonard Jackson, the civil engineer who worked on St. Lawrence’s stadium and the Elm Street condos, was late. Court didn’t start until 9:55, and Judge Seibel was not pleased. When Jackson was asked about it, he blamed traffic on the way over.
There were two lines of questioning remaining from the prosecution’s inquiry begun the day before—the $898,000 owed to his firm by the RLDC and an odd query about where the water runoff from the roofs and the street at Ramapo Commons (Elm Street condos) went.
The prosecution apparently returned to the unpaid near one million-dollar debt to show that the Town finances were worse than represented to the bond attorneys and Moody’s. The account payable went back several years. Jackson’s firm did the first proposal for the ballpark in 2009 as well as the proposal for drainage and a sand filter on Elm Street. In 2015, Jackson wrote Mona Montal about the $898,000 owed him, and then met with Supervisor St. Lawrence who negotiated the debt down to under $700K.
Prosecutor James McMahon then asked whether the water from the roofs of the buildings get directed into the sand filter that was installed by Jackson’s company to mitigate the flooding problem in the area. Jackson replied, I believe so. Pressed, Jackson said he would have to look at the drawings.
McMahon then commented, When you met with me last month you said you have a vested interest in the outcome of the trial. You said, I hope Mr. St. Lawrence is found not guilty because he has done nothing wrong. And you expressed a hope that you don’t lose any business.
Jackson was then excused from the courtroom to look over his schematic drawings to see where the water would drain on Elm Street.
The next witness was Tiffany Jade Lee-Allan, a municipal bond analyst from the Moody’s rating group. Lee-Allan worked on the ratings for the RLDC $25M Bond in 2013 (that’s the refinance of the 2011 bond) and the 2014 bonds. The long, abstract interrogation that followed revolved around the downgrading of Moody’s rating for the town to a A-1 with a negative outlook.
Taking up most of the day, the dialogue revolved around two key issues: Moody’s pays special attention to the strength of the General Fund when determining the risk to investors, and the reason that the ratings remained as investor grade was that the debt being accumulated by the RLDC was co-signed, backed up by the taxpayers which provided the security to keep the rating where it was. The tax base in Ramapo is wealthy enough to cover the excessive debts being run up by St. Lawrence’s development corporation. This is not the way the law says LDCs are supposed to operate. They are to operate at arm’s length from the Town government and there is supposed to be no mingling of funds between the town and the LDC.
Before the lunch break Leonard Jackson was led back in and the question was asked by McMahon, again: Does water from the 11 roofs and roads run into the sand filter?
He answered, Yes. But the question that remained unanswered, Why the interest by the feds in this construction detail involving Jackson’s company?
Before the jurors returned from the lunch break, Judge Seibel declared Leonard Jackson a hostile witness.
Jacqueline (Jackie) Eisen
Jackie Eisen began by explaining she has been Christopher St. Lawrence’s secretary since December 2002.
She was asked if she had access to the Supervisor’s email address. She said she did.
She was then asked if she knew that the Supervisor had a second Gmail account Celebrate New York. She said she didn’t.
Then she was asked about a specific FEMA email sent to her. She said she didn’t recall the specific email. Asked what she normally did with emails for the Supervisor, she replied she would print them and put them on his desk.
Then she was asked, Do you ever delete emails from his accounts?
Yes, she replied, the older ones but she added that she believed they’re kept also on the Town servers.
This admission is eye-opening for two reasons. The first is that any administrator who understands the probative value of emails would not likely ask his secretary to be removing emails from his own office account unless he or she had a very good reason to do so. For instance, if the executive wanted the plausible deniability of answering the question: Did you delete those emails, and why did you do that? With: I didn’t delete any emails. And second, it has been reported that at one point St. Lawrence specifically ordered his staff to stop sending emails that discussed any financial matters. The reason he gave was that those emails could be subject to Freedom of Information Act requests by citizens and investigators. No doubt, that order of the Supervisor will show up somewhere down the line in these hearings.
Hearings will continue tomorrow but on a half day schedule from 9 to 12.