“Suspended Ramapo finance official Melissa Reimer’s latest legal action demands the town either fire her or put her back to work.
Reimer, 50, has been suspended since June 2013 after two disciplinary hearings in which a hearing officer ruled Town Board members should fire her for insubordination and other allegations as supervisor of fiscal services.
The Town Board has not acted and Reimer continues getting paid $170,000 annually, as her federal civil rights lawsuit against the town continues.
Reimer’s attorney, Fred Lichtmacher of Manhattan, contends Ramapo is required by civil service law to make a decision on the hearing officer’s determination. The law doesn’t set a time frame for the town to act.
“The town needs to either bring her back or cut her loose and face the consequences,” Lichtmacher said. “They are costing the taxpayers tons of money by paying her for not working. She wants to work.”
Reimer’s lawsuit contends Ramapo Supervisor Christopher St. Lawrence and other town officials falsified charges and then suspended her in retaliation for her blowing the whistle on corrupt acts to the FBI.
Reimer testified against St. Lawrence at his federal corruption trial, providing key testimony on phony revenues to show a positive budget fund balance. 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.
“Pretty amazing, one guy is going to prison and other officials committed bad acts and she’s not allowed in the building,” Lichtmacher said. “When you are a hero, you are not supposed to be penalized. If the town wants to run in an honest manner, they should want back the person who is the whistle blower.”
The town’s counsel, Steven Stern of Sokoloff Stern, said the Town Board will take up the issue in January after new members, including supervisor-elect Michael Specht, take office.
Stern noted Lichtmacher’s legal papers acknowledge the town is under no deadline to decide Reimer’s fate. Stern said he and Lichtmacher are working on a state Supreme Court date in January and Friday’s scheduled appearance before Judge Sherri Eisenpress in New City will be rescheduled.
Come January, Specht takes over as supervisor as David Wanounou joins fellow Democratic Town Board members Yitzchok Ullman, Brendel Logan-Charles, and Michael Rossman. Ullman has served as supervisor since St. Lawrence’s conviction booted him from office.
Specht and Logan-Charles said they want more information on the issue.
Specht worked on the town’s disciplinary hearing against Reimer. Ullman has said he won’t support bringing Reimer back while she’s suing the town.
Board member Pat Withers supported lifting Reimer’s suspension. He didn’t seek re-election after he lost the support of the Democratic Party leadership and ultra-Orthodox community after he testified against St. Lawrence.
Withers provided audio-tapes involving St. Lawrence being told he couldn’t declare federal emergency response funds as revenues since the money had not been approved.
Lichtmacher said if the Town Board decides to fire Reimer he would take appropriate action, but either way the legal action in state Supreme Court is “strategically and morally, the right move.”
“It is difficult if not not impossible to imagine how the equities weigh in favor of Ms. Reimer being left in limbo for years as she ages and does not have the opportunity to challenge the recommendations of the hearing officers,” Lichtmacher stated in his legal papers.
While Ramapo tried to upend Reimer’s federal lawsuit, U.S. District Court Judge Cathy Seibel — who oversaw St. Lawrence’s corruption trial ruled — 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 found Reimer’s contact with the FBI was protected speech under the Constitution’s First Amendment.
Seibel also ruled a jury can hear charges in the lawsuit against St. Lawrence, Town Attorney Michael Klein and Deputy Town Attorney Beth Finkelstein, who oversaw Reimer’s town disciplinary cases leading to her suspension.
Reimer’s federal lawsuit has moved to the stage where people will be interviewed by attorneys for both sides. Lichtmacher said St. Lawrence appealing his sentence and potentially going to prison in March could delay the legal action.”
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