Nervous officials attack Rockland County Times, even while confirming the most important points of the article
BY DYLAN SKRILOFF
It was a rare scene last Tuesday night in Clarkstown Town Hall, as resident after resident read excerpts of the Rockland County Times’ controversial front page article from August 9, “House of Horrors,”demanding explanations from the board.
The “House of Horrors” article told the story of a “secret meeting” called by Ed Lettre, the Town of Clarkstown’s clerk of the works and executive director of the Rockland County Conservative Party. Among those present at the meeting were Alex Gromack, supervisor of Clarkstown, Amy Mele, town attorney, Frank Borelli, Stephanie Hausner and Shirley Lasker, Clarkstown council members, Frank Sparaco, county legislator, Mary Loeffler, chair of the Conservatives and former Clarkstown director of personnel, and others.
The purpose of the “secret meeting,” as described by the Rockland County Times, was to discuss Lettre’s plan to maintain power in the Conservative Party. Almost all elected officials in Clarkstown rely on Lettre’s party’s endorsement. Currently, Lettre is in a tight battle with former chairman of the Conservative Party, Nick Longo, for control of the party.
In return for helping him stay in power, Lettre conveyed to his allies that he’d help them stay in power. Hey, they don’t call it politics for nothing.
None of the town board members named in the article; Gromack, Hausner or Lasker (Borelli was not present at the town board meeting), denied the purpose of the meeting was political strategy concerning the Conservative Party leadership.
During the public comments segment of the meeting Clarkstown Taxpayers President Guy Gervasi asked, “I am a little confused. Councilman Borelli, who is not here, I thought he was a registered Republican. Supervisor Gromack, Councilwomen Hausner and Lasker I thought you were all registered Democrats. If this is so, my questions are: Why would registered Republicans and Democrats go to a secret meeting called by an employee of the town just to get help to retain his chairmanship of the Conservative Party? He didn’t ask you for help for the Republican party. He asked you for help to keep his seat in the Conservative Party.”
Addressing Gervasi’s question and others, Gromack stated that a meeting did occur, and though he took exception to the description “House of Horrors,” he acknowledged that the meeting dealt with “strategy.” Gromack stated, “Certainly, the minor parties, Conservative, Working Families, the Independence Party, they certainly can pick and choose individuals that they want to support and very often there are, you know, differences of opinions within those parties on who will ultimately chair those.”
He added, “Those are inter (sic) party decisions and very often others can help and get involved and participate. So certainly it is everybody’s right to do that.”
Further defending the town board members’ direct involvement in the Conservative Party’s politics, Gromack said the meeting in question was within the participants’ “constitutional rights.”
The powerful Democrat said to a concerned members of the Clarkstown Taxpayers Group, “Certainly having meetings of a political nature outside of Town Hall…is done by all individuals running for office, in office, party leaders from every party. So there is absolutely nothing illegal about it.
“It just shows your lack of knowledge of the laws of the State of New York and this nation, when you are indeed allowed to have these meetings in private…That is our constitutional right just like it is your constitutional right to have any types of meetings you want.”
Describing the extent of organization within the political system, Gromack further stated to the concerned citizen, “I think you would be naive and surprised if you only knew about the number of meetings that go on by political parties under their rights of the constitution in NY State and the federal government, not only in Clarkstown, Rockland County, New York State, but as I said throughout the country.”
Gromack then added, humorously, “Certainly, as I said, any meetings that one would have – you might want to call them secret – but if strategy is discussed, certainly we are not going to discuss it with YOU (referring to the Clarkstown Taxpayers Group). That would be ridiculous. Just like when you have meetings and talk about things that you want to do of a political nature you don’t discuss it with us.”
Gromack began his statement by stating that the Rockland County Times is usually “pretty accurate,” but this time the editor “missed the boat.”
Shirley Lasker then spiced up the evening by inappropriately demanding the sources of the Rockland County Times. “Whoever that source was I think the paper should name that person. Were they at the meeting, weren’t they at the meeting?” Lasker asked, to the astonishment of those in attendance.
Prior to her statement Lasker was asked by the Rockland County Times if she was doing work for the Conservative Party. She said she was not doing work for the Conservative Party, but she acknowledged she participated in the House of Horrors meeting because she liked receiving their endorsement.
Lasker denied she physically attended the meeting, instead claiming she was in Connecticut and listened in by telephone for part of it.
Councilwoman Hausner defiantly denied the Rockland County Times’ account of Ed Lettre telling her to gather petitions from her friends to join the Conservative Party, and added, “If I did it would not necessarily be a public discussion.” She told the public nobody ever told her, “Just do it.”