Rockland County Prevails in Legal Challenge to Sewer Salaries

COUNTY PRESS RELEASE

Rockland County has won a court case involving $70,000 in improper payments to elected officials serving as Commissioners on the board of Rockland Sewer District No. 1.

In a decision handed down this week by Rockland Supreme Court Judge Thomas E. Walsh II, the court agreed with the County that supervisors and mayors on the sewer board were wrongly paid.

“I promised taxpayers when I came into office in 2014 that I would reform government and safeguard every cent of their money,” Day said. “This successful legal action is another example of how I am making good on that promise.”

Day vowed to get the taxpayer funds back from officials who were improperly paid. They include two former Commissioner who have since been convicted of fraud in unrelated cases – former Ramapo Supervisor Christopher St. Lawrence and former Spring Valley Mayor Noramie Jasmin.

Other commissioners named in the lawsuit include Paul Whelan, John Maloney, Bernard Jackson, Demeza Delhomme, George Darden, Craig Flanagan, Daniel O’Leary, Mark Reimer and Thom Kleiner.

Only Flanagan remains on the sewer board.

Both Flanagan, mayor of Hillburn, and O’Leary, a Sloatsburg village trustee, have promised to repay the funds.

“We commend Mayor Flanagan and Trustee O’Leary for doing the right thing,” County Executive Day said. “I am calling upon all of the former Commissioners to do the same and pay this money back to the taxpayers.”

The payments began in 2003 and stopped in February 2015 after Day’s administration discovered that the stipend was being paid to all Commissioners.

The County Sewer District laws clearly state that elected officials serving on the board are not to be paid, while non-elected officials earn an annual $2,375 stipend.

The county filed suit in 2015 to recoup the improper payments.

Former Sewer Commissioners Alexander Gromack of Clarkstown and Andy Stewart of Orangetown have already repaid their salaries.

Gromack returned $13,458 and Stewart returned $6,927.

The statute of limitations only allows the County to seek repayment for six years.

Some Commissioners got the stipend for much longer. St. Lawrence, a former chairman of the Sewer Commission, was paid $24,000 for 2003-2015.

He is required to pay back $13,062 in principal, plus interest.

Members of the Sewer Commission are appointed by the Rockland County Legislature.

Judge Walsh dismissed arguments from the Commissioners that the action to recoup the funds “was commenced as a vendetta by County Executive Day against the Rockland County Legislature.”

In his decision, the judge wrote “the Defendants have failed to provide any direct evidence of that allegation.”

Day praised County Attorney Thomas Humbach, Director of Public Policy and Intergovernmental relations Stephen J. Powers and Auditor Robert Bergman for their work on the case.

Rockland County is also seeking to recover more than $400,000 paid by the Sewer District to the Town of Ramapo to remove dirt from a sewer expansion project. The town never did the work.