“Five families” of Rockland politics hold secret meeting behind cemetery at the offices of the Working Families Party; unlikely personalities seek to save Ed Lettre’s leadership of the Conservative Party
(EDITOR’S NOTE POSTED NOVEMBER 26, 2012— PLEASE SEE ADDENDUM AT END OF STORY)
BY DYLAN SKRILOFF
Desperate times call for half-baked measures!
Influential kingmaker in Clarkstown and Rockland politics, Ed Lettre, the executive director of the Rockland chapter of the Conservative Party, called a “secret meeting” involving major players from all five Rockland County political parties last week.
His purpose? To get everyone on board with a plan to keep his team of Conservatives in power, as he is facing a powerful challenge from a group led by former party chair Nick Longo. In return, of course, he told those in his camp he’ll help to keep them in power too.
Though ostensibly leading a party for strict conservatives, Lettre, who earns $170,000 plus benefits as “Clerk of the Works” for the Town of Clarkstown, has found common cause with some of the most liberal people in Rockland County politics. Their common interest, as is often the case in politics, is power.
Lettre’s Conservative Party line swings the vote in many elections in Rockland County, especially in the Town of Clarkstown, but around the rest of the county as well. Longo has accused Lettre of selling the Conservative endorsement wholesale for political patronage jobs for favored cronies, a charge which Lettre denies and says would more accurately characterize Longo’s approach toward governance.
But present last week at the secret meeting to help save Lettre’s scalp were liberals like Clarkstown Councilwoman Stephanie Hausner, who is a member of the National Democratic Committee, and Clarkstown Councilwoman Shirley Lasker. Also present were Lettre’s “boss,” Democratic Clarkstown Supervisor Alex Gromack, town attorney of Clarkstown Amy Mele, Town of Ramapo Democratic chair and Chris St. Lawrence’s left-hand woman Mona Montal, and Clarkstown Town Clerk Justin Sweet.
Present on the “right-wing” side of the fence, were luminaries such as “Mr. Conservative” himself, Legislator Frank Sparaco, who is the GOP leader of the Rockland County Legislature as well as a behind-the-scenes player in the Independence Party, Clarkstown Councilman Frank Borelli, and chairwoman of the Rockland chapter of the Conservative Party Mary Loeffler.
Others may also have been present.
In a great dose of irony, the secret meeting to help swing the Conservative Party’s fate was actually held at the far left-wing Working Families Party office at the Communication Workers of America Rockland County chapter headquarters in New City. The creepily incestuous meeting of high-powered Rockland politicos, actually took place right behind a cemetery, as a gravesite is adjacent to the CWA office’s property.
Undoubtedly the spirits were restless that night, as so many high powered persons seemed to buck the purpose of the multiparty system.
One member present described the whole situation as “a mess.” At one point in the meeting Lettre asked Hausner to recruit friends to enroll in the Conservative Party, an idea the liberal was not too receptive toward. Lettre authoritatively retorted, “Just do it.”
Mona Montal confirmed she had signed over 80 party committeemen from the Orthodox community, making them the largest voting bloc in Lettre’s new Conservative coalition. Many of Lettre’s other committeemen would be coming into the party through Democrats, who he’d now owe even more of his political power to.
The question is, where do rank and file Conservatives fit into this picture of power? Do they have a say? How does the party that stands for traditional marriage end up in bed with the LGBT movement? How does the party skeptical of almost all tax hikes end up in bed with people who believe government spending can be an engine that drives a prosperous economy?
One local political figure who’s made at least a semblance of an effort to reduce incestuous relationships among Rockland County party machines is Rockland County Democratic Chairwoman Kristen Stavisky, the sister of Rockland County Assemblyman Kenneth Zebrowksi. She has worked to end the practice of Democrats taking Republican Party endorsements.
However, she cannot stop candidates from working in cahoots with the Conservative Party, because their political life often depends on it.
When told of the “secret meeting” called by Lettre, Stavisky lamented, “I would really like to get rid of the minor parties altogether, but [they are a reality]. The only thing I can do is focus on my Democratic Party. I am busy enough working to elect Democrats, I do not get involved in the inner-workings of the Conservative Party.”
While that is her position, it is a fact that without cross-endorsements of smaller parties many of “her” Democrats could not get elected.
And without a few liberal Democrats in his pocket, Lettre would have no power, either.
ADDENDUM POSTED NOVEMBER 26, 2012 —
Correction– Town of Ramapo Democratic Chairwoman Mona Montal was not, in fact, present at this particular meeting. However, she did work openly with the Lettre coalition and brought in dozens of new committee members to his party. Montal never requested a correction to be published by the newspaper.
New facts– After this article was originally posted, The Rockland County Times learned that Councilman George Hoehmann and Highway Superintendent Wayne Ballard were also present at the House of Horrors meeting. Councilwoman Lasker attended by telephone.