SUBMITTED BY RAMAPO COUNCILMAN DANIEL FRIEDMAN
In the wake of several actions taken by Ramapo Supervisor Christopher P. St. Lawrence, Ramapo Councilman Daniel Friedman initiated an investigation into the mishandling of governmental business in Ramapo Town Hall. The results of that inquiry demonstrated that there were multiple incidents in which Ramapo officials took inappropriate action.
After numerous personnel improprieties
Councilman Friedman says an investigation has proven Supervisor St. Lawrence deceived the board. Friedman, along with Councilman Pat Withers, sent a letter raising numerous questions relating to the issues involved to Town Attorney Michael Klein, requesting that his office conduct an investigation. The results of that investigation prove that Supervisor Christopher P. St. Lawrence violated the authority of the Town Board multiple times.
The results of the investigation include a transcript of the public portion of the January 16 meeting in which personnel matters were discussed. At that time, the Supervisor distinctly stated one job to be a “part-time paralegal in the Town Attorney’s office.” He then repeated that the position was part-time. According to the CSEA, “part time” is referred to as half of full-time minus one hour, or 16.5 hours.
In a March 3 article in The Journal News that interviewed Supervisor St. Lawrence about the hires, it was reported that the paralegal position was “to provide clerical assistance in different departments of the town up to 35 hours a week.” This completely contradicts the understanding reached between members of the Town Board.
According to the Town Attorney, the change in office took place because, “Ms. Mallia [the paralegal] was initially assigned to the Building Department at the Building Inspector’s request.” The Building Inspector is Ms. Mallia’s father. After this investigation was initiated, the paralegal was returned to the Town Attorney’s office, which was the only office the Town Board authorized her to work in.
The investigation also showed that the formal vote for the hiring of the paralegal had actually not taken place, and in haste, the next motion was introduced before the paralegal hiring could be voted on. As a result, another vote was held on the hiring at the March 10 Town Board meeting.
“After another discussion was held related to this position and the vote came up, I voted against it, as the specifications of the job that had been agreed upon in January were violated and changed,” Councilman Friedman stated. “These changes, as well as the lack of transparency on this matter – not only to the public, but to me as a Councilman, disturbed me greatly, and so I voted against it.”
Issues were also raised with regard to the hiring of Bernard Charles. According to the meeting transcript, while introducing the proposed hire at the time of the Town Board vote, Supervisor St. Lawrence stated, “We don’t have a consultant over at the Cultural Arts Center so we are going to hire a consultant for the Cultural Arts Center to run the programs there and to increase the revenues.”
In a March 3rd article in The Journal News that interviewed Supervisor St. Lawrence about the hires, the article included the following paragraphs:
Town Supervisor Christopher St. Lawrence said that in addition, he expected Bernard Charles to work on a cost-assessment study for fire protection services because it came to his attention that some homeowners pay much more for fire services depending on where they live.
Charles’ office is at the Department of Public Works on Pioneer Avenue in Tallman, St. Lawrence said.
The comments by Supervisor St. Lawrence directly contradict the job description and responsibilities that he presented to the Town Board, and which the board proceeded to vote on.
The question was raised as to who directed Mr. Charles to do work on fire protection services, which are completely unrelated to the parks and recreation responsibilities that the Town Board authorized Mr. Charles to perform. The Town Attorney responded in his investigative report, “It is my understanding that the Supervisor directed the work.”
The question was raised as to who directed Mr. Charles to work at an office in the Department of Public Works after the Town Board approved the position as one to be stationed only at the Cultural Arts Center, and the Supervisor clearly stated at the vote that the position was to be stationed at the Cultural Arts Center. The Town Attorney responded in his investigative report, “It is my understanding that the Supervisor authorized Mr. Charles to use the vacant space at DPW.”
“I am pleased that I was able to get answers to important questions – not only for me, but for the taxpayers who always have to foot the bill,” said Councilman Friedman. “This investigation validates what I have been saying publicly about these issues since Day One, and proves that Supervisor St. Lawrence violated these Town Board votes in numerous ways.”
“When the Town Board votes, it is the responsibility of everyone – including the Supervisor – to follow that vote, and not act independently. One elected official in a government cannot override four others. Let me be clear: Violations of the Town Board’s authority are no longer acceptable in Ramapo, and there must and will be consequences for those violations,” concluded Councilman Friedman.
According to the Town Attorney in his investigative report, “The willful failure to abide by a lawful, duly adopted resolution may constitute misconduct punishable pursuant under NYCL Section 75…Sanctions under Civil Service Law Section 75 include reprimand…or dismissal from the service.”