STATEMENT FROM TOWN OF RAMAPO SUPERVISOR YITZCHOK ULLMAN

TOWN OF RAMAPO SUPERVISOR YITZCHOK ULLMAN (Former deputy supervisor):

As a result of his criminal conviction of a felony as determined by a jury earlier today, Mr. Christopher P. St. Lawrence is automatically disqualified from continuing to serve as the Ramapo Town Supervisor. As Deputy Supervisor, I am now responsible under law to fulfill the duties as Supervisor.  I will dedicate my efforts to do so openly, competently and effectively. And I will do so until the vacancy in the office of the Supervisor is filled either in this November’s election, or sooner by appointment of the Town Board.

Town of Ramapo has been in existence for 226 years since 1791, and it will continue to provide essential municipal services for many generations to come.  Through its history, Ramapo residents have lived through times of tranquility and times of strife. For about four years now, we have worked under a cloud of a federal investigation arising from the financing of the baseball stadium by the Ramapo Local Development Corporation and the Town. This investigation has now culminated in the criminal conviction of Mr. St. Lawrence.  While an appeal of the conviction may continue in the courts for years, the time is now for us in the Town of Ramapo to close out this chapter of our history and move on. But we must move on learning from this bitter experience, and recognizing that the mistakes of the past should not be repeated.

With these thoughts in mind, I will urge my fellow Town Board members to join me in promptly taking the following actions:

  1. The Ramapo Local Development Corporation should be abolished. I will direct the Town’s Finance Director, the Town Attorney and the Parks & Recreation Director to promptly develop a plan to transition the operations of the Palisades Credit Union Park from the RLDC to the Town.  This will avoid a duplication of services and place the control and responsibility for the sports facility under the direct auspices of the Town. Although local development corporations are permitted under state law, the NYS Comptroller has criticized their use and Ramapo should heed the Comptroller’s advice.
  1. The Ramapo Town Code should be amended to prevent a Town Supervisor from also serving as the Town Director of Finance. These must always be separate positions to insure that an effective system of checks and balances is in place. Last year the Town replaced Mr. St. Lawrence with an independent minded CPA to head the Finance Department, and we should continue to do so at all times. I will ensure-No demand that the audited financial statements for the 2015/2016 be ready and made available publically on our website within the next few weeks
  1. A moratorium should be enacted preventing any new modular structures or trailers to be used as temporary schools. The Town Board, the Planning Board and the Town’s Planning Consultant should use the time while the moratorium is in place to hear the concerns of our residents, and either abolish or amend the temporary modular law.
  1. We should reconfigure the sectors in those areas of the Town patrolled by the Ramapo police department, and eliminate one sector, and at the same time ensuring that the police continue to reach out to minorities for recruitment efforts. While Ramapo is consistently recognized as one of the safest communities in the entire country, it also has among the highest police salaries. The consolidation of sectors will help control the staffing needs and costs of the police department without jeopardizing public safety.
  1. The Office of the Receiver of Taxes should be abolished and its functions consolidated with the Office of the Town Clerk. This consolidation has worked well in the numerous Towns saving taxpayers money and avoiding unnecessary costs. It should be an effective cost savings measure in Ramapo as well.
  1. The Ramapo Equestrian Center should be discontinued. This facility is used by too few Ramapo residents, and the costs to maintain the facility even with a private operator have proven to be too expensive to justify.  The property should simply be available to residents as a passive park and recreation area. I will direct the Town’s Finance Director, the Town Attorney and the Parks & Recreation Director to promptly develop a plan to phase out the equestrian use.
  1. The Building Inspector should no longer be the administrator of the Planning Board and Zoning Board of Appeals. The Planning Department should be administered separately from the Building Department. While we should strive to consolidate services whenever possible, this consolidation has not worked well.  The Building Inspector should concentrate his efforts on the enforcement of the Zoning Law and the NYS Fire Prevention and Building Code, and on the review and processing of building applications.
  1. A review should be conducted of each department to make sure the staffing needs are adequate, and not excessive, and to evaluate if services provided by outside contractors can be done “in-house”. The Department of Public Works and the Office of the Town Attorney should be reviewed, in particular.

The Town of Ramapo is one of the largest and most diverse towns in New York State.  It is a community of hard-working families who cherish the opportunities that Ramapo provides. We have safe streets, great parks and vast areas of open space, public and private schools to educate our children, low rates of unemployment, a growing tax base, cultural activities, senior centers and places of worship for persons of almost any faith. The misdeeds of Mr. St. Lawrence should fade as a billboard, together with all the signs along a highway as we drive into our brighter future wiser because of the difficult roads we have crossed.