East Ramapo School District in Federal Court UPDATE The Journal News February 21
“East Ramapo school board president Harry Grossman faced mounting questions on Friday about his behind-the-scenes communications with Orthodox Jewish religious leaders and other members of the board.
In 2016, Grossman told fellow board member Sabrina Charles-Pierre, a black public school parent, to remember that she could be voted out at any time.
He repeated the message at least six times between April and August of that year, according to Facebook messages entered into evidence by lawyers for the NAACP.
“If there really was any desire by anybody to remove you from the board, all that would need to be done was to run a candidate against you,” said Grossman in message from July of 2016. “Orthodox community could have just voted you out in May.”
Grossman was being questioned about these exchanges by Russel Mangas, an attorney for the New York Civil Liberties Union. The NYCLU is representing the Spring Valley chapter of the NAACP, as well as black and Latino candidates who were not elected to the board, in a federal voting rights case that could change the way the school board is elected in East Ramapo.
The NYCLU says East Ramapo’s white community has employed “slating” efforts led by Orthodox Jewish religious leaders to ensure its candidates win a majority of seats on the nine-member board.
Mangas also questioned Grossman about a group created on the messaging app WhatsApp in December 2015 called “PR for Board” where Grossman and Orthodox Jewish leaders discussed what would happen if a state monitor with veto power over the board was appointed to supervise East Ramapo.
Grossman said: “Vote down any budget. State will have to come up with $$ or massive cuts. If cut private school mandates, lawsuits.”
Grossman clarified that the “massive cuts” he was referring to were items like music, art and full-day kindergarten.
When asked if he, as a board member, was privately suggesting someone sue the school board, Grossman said yes, “as a political stategy.”
“You didn’t see any conflict between your duties as a board member and what you’re saying in this chat?” Seibel asked.
“I do not,” Grossman replied.
Between 2012 and 2018, the district spent about $16 million in legal fees, an investigation published by The Journal News/lohud in January found. Board member Yehuda Weissmandl previously said in his testimony that the district could have saved some money if people would stop suing.
The trial will resume Monday.”
Read the complete Journal News coverage here.