“Nearly five years after suspending Melissa Reimer, the Ramapo Town Board has fired the former financial officer whose cooperation with the FBI led to the conviction of former Supervisor Christopher St. Lawrence on fraud charges.
Board members voted 3-0 Wednesday to accept the recommendations of a hearing officer who suggested firing Reimer, who this month won a seat on the Suffern Central Board of Education.
Reimer, who has a pending federal civil rights lawsuit against the town, took Ramapo to state Supreme Court in December demanding the town either fire her or put her back to work.
Supervisor Michael Specht said Wednesday that he recused himself from voting on Reimer. He had prosecuted disciplinary charges against Reimer as an assistant town attorney.
Specht said the town hired an attorney who specialized in disciplinary law. He said the lawyer recommended going with the decisions by two hearing officers.
Voting to fire Reimer were Deputy Supervisor Brendel Logan-Charles and Councilmen Michael Rossman and David Wanounou, who won election in November. The board’s fifth seat remains unfilled since Yitzchok Ullman resigned to become receiver of taxes in January. An appointment is expected soon, officials said.
Reimer’s Manhattan lawyer, Fred Litchmacher, said the battle is just beginning as he’s pressing a federal lawsuit accusing town officials of retaliating against Reimer for cooperating with the FBI investigating the town. She claims to be a whistle-blower.
Litchmacher said the board fired Reimer for telling the truth but allows Town Attorney Michael Klein to remain after he invoked his fifth amendment rights against self-incrimination when testifying at St. Lawrence’s trial in May 2017.
“Ramapo’s approach is to kill the messenger and protect the convicted felon,” Litchmacher said in an email statement referring to St. Lawrence.
Litchmacher said town officials have “no problem keeping a lawyer on the payroll who took the 5th but is firing the person who came forward to tell the truth about crimes being committed at Ramapo.”
Reimer provided key testimony on St. Lawrence using phony revenues to show a positive budget fund balance in an effort to get a better deal on bonds to finance $25 million of the town’s $58 million baseball stadium.
She provided audio tapes indicating St. Lawrence conspired with others to manipulate funds that denied municipal bond buyers with correct information on the failing town budget.
One recording heard St. Lawrence laughing and talking about lying about the town finances to bond advisers, saying the town better refinance a series of short-term notes and bonds quickly because “we’re going to have to be a magician to get those numbers.”
- LAWRENCE: Former Ramapo supervisor sentenced to prison
- LAWRENCE TRIAL: Whistleblower says she warned auditors of fraud
A federal jury convicted St. Lawrence on May 19, 2017, of 20 counts of securities fraud, wire fraud, and conspiracy. He was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in federal prison, starting March 15, and fined $75,000.
“They have made their own bed, now I am going to make them lay down in it,” Litchmacher said of the decision to fire Reimer.
Hearing Officer William Sherwood, a retired state Supreme Court judge and former Stony Point supervisor, upheld two misconduct accusations against Reimer and dismissed five other counts in September 2013.
Sherwood decided that Reimer “overstepped boundaries that she should have been familiar with” during an incident in 2012 at police headquarters when she yelled and cursed at office workers to support an officer’s time off. Sherwood recommended a 20-day suspension.
In January 2014 after a second disciplinary hearing, former Spring Valley Justice Jonas Gelb recommended the Town Board fire Reimer on the grounds she engaged in “multiple and serious breaches of good conduct.”
She was accused of lying about audio-taping conversations with town lawyers interviewing her about the charges, among other accusations.
While Ramapo tried to upend Reimer’s federal lawsuit, U.S. District Court Judge Cathy Seibel — who oversaw St. Lawrence’s corruption trial — ruled she could make a case before a jury that Ramapo officials defamed and retaliated against her for cooperating with the FBI and federal prosecutors.
Seibel, who oversaw St. Lawrence’s trial and sentenced him to prison, found Reimer’s contact with the FBI was protected speech under the Constitution’s First Amendment.”
Read the complete Journal News coverage here along with the links to the previous stories that provide a background for the current development.