EDITORIAL BY DYLAN SKRILOFF
At Clarkstown’s board meeting this week, Supervisor Alex Gromack defended the town’s efforts, saying they are working hard to save taxpayer dollars through “innovative” projects like merging the Town Clerk and Tax Receiver offices as well as the Highway Department’s three garages.
Indeed, the Clarkstown Town Board should be commended for such actions, however, unfortunately for Joe and Jane Taxpayer in Clarkstown, it is also the seat of political patronage in Rockland County and the amount of waste is probably higher there than in any other town. For example, in recent years well known political muscleman Ed Lettre has enjoyed a 70 percent raise in his salary as Clerk of the Public Works.
The reason for this is an open secret. Ed Lettre is former executive director and the new chairman of the Rockland County Conservative Party. The supervisor of Clarkstown and the board members are reliant on the Conservative Party endorsement to win their elections. They then must go through the uncomfortable and clearly inappropriate circumstance of being the boss of Ed Lettre in his professional capacity.
How can you be the boss of someone who is more powerful than you? Well, you can’t, so instead of being his boss and making him earn a living, they lavish unjust raises on him and even kept his troubled son on the town payroll until finally he got arrested for stealing copper wire from a house while on duty.
As a result of this kind of thing being common knowledge by now in the Town of Clarkstown, board meetings have become rather dramatic, as one speaker after another inevitably gets up and castigates Gromack, while the rest of the board looks on mopingly. This week, upon announcement of the 6 percent tax hike, an elderly man who did not provide his name finally broke Gromack’s armor, as he looked him dead in the eye and uttered, “What you are doing is horrific.”
Clearly flustered, Gromack later took out his frustrations on Bryan Burrell, executive director of the Rockland County School Board Association, because Burrell had complained to the board about temporarily implementing a 1 percent processing fee on school taxes. Gromack said other towns have fees and he never heard Burrell in 20 years criticize them. Burrell told the Rockland County Times that he indeed criticized Orangetown for the same fee, even though it was only 1/8 of 1 percent.
Gromack also took credit for having three straight budgets which averaged around 1 percent or less in tax increases. However, members of the citizens group Clarkstown Taxpayers like Amy Durbin have made the point that until they came on to the scene, tax levy increases over 5 percent were normal. By putting forth low tax increase budgets, Gromack politically neutralized the group, for a while.
Ironically, one of the Taxpayer Group’s cofounders and leading lights, Michael Hirsch, was arrested this past week on charges of larceny and forgery, for allegedly lying about compensation to workers in order to get higher paybacks from a contract with the City of New York
This led to an interesting exchange between Alex Gromack and Guy Gervasi, current president of the Clarkstown Taxpayers Group. Gervasi told Gromack that over 2,500 officials had gone to jail in New York State in the last 30 years. Gromack reminded him that many more businessmen have been to jail, and that sometimes even local businessmen get arrested, and sometimes even convicted.