“The Pascack Ridge builder seeking a Town Board zone change for high-density housing donated $2,500 in March to the re-election campaign for three board members who will vote on his proposal, according to state Board of Elections records and a board critic.
Alex Goldberger’s Monsey Affordable Homes Inc. made the donation on March 15 to Team Ramapo, the re-election campaign for Supervisor Michael Specht, Deputy Supervisor Brendel Logan-Charles, and Councilman Michael Rossman. The campaign reported the donation in its July filing with the state.
Support from four of the Town Board’s five members is needed for Goldberger to get a zone change to build between 220 and 290 units on 27.6 acres along the border with Clarkstown and Spring Valley. A super majority of four votes is needed because the Rockland Planning Department rejected the development plan for numerous reasons.
William Weber, a former Republican candidate for supervisor, demanded this week that the three officials whose campaign received Goldberger’s donation recuse themselves from voting on the zone change. Weber, who lost a 2017 supervisor race to Specht, opposes the zone change.
Weber said the state Joint Commission on Public Ethics holds that municipalities should prevent not only actual conflicts of interest, but the appearance of such conflicts. He also cited Specht’s vow when he ran in 2017 to change the town’s political culture. Specht succeeded Christopher St. Lawrence, who began serving a 30-month sentence in March 2018 for federal fraud involving the town’s efforts to borrow money through bonding.
“In light of all the corruption, fraud, and backroom deals that we have seen in Ramapo of the last number of years, these elected officials should want to regain the trust of the residents by holding themselves to an even higher standard than what has been the norm here,” Weber said.
“This is their chance to show that they are different,” Weber said. “The question is what will they do with this opportunity. They must recuse themselves from voting on this zone change.”
Specht said Weber is overplaying a single campaign donation for political reasons and to bolster his opposition to the Goldberger development.
Specht said he was unaware of the March donation until reading a Weber email earlier this week. He said he doesn’t see any conflict of interest that would prevent the board members from voting, and he doesn’t believe there is a reason to return the donation.
“It’s neither illegal nor unethical,” Specht said. “It’s not going to affect the vote. This is an effort to make something out of nothing.”
Specht, Logan-Charles and Rossman are seeking new terms in the Nov. 5 election.They are unopposed, as the Republican party is not running candidates and two independent lines are blank.
Goldberger could not be reached for comment on the March donation. He declined to discuss his proposed development at the public hearing.
His donations through Monsey Affordable Homes prior to March, according to the state Board of Elections, included: $1,000 to Logan-Charles in July 2015; $650 to county Legislator Aron Wieder in September 2016; and $1,000 to a political campaign, Leadership That’s Working, in September 2014.
Specht, a former deputy town attorney, is seeking two more years as supervisor, while Logan-Charles and Rossman are running for four-year terms. Logan-Charles has been a board member for more than a decade, while Rossman defeated Weber to win an unexpired Town Board seat in 2016.”
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