BY JOEL GROSSBARTH AND DYLAN SKRILOFF
Melissa Reimer, the whistleblower who catalyzed the downfall of Christopher St. Lawrence and his administration by revealing his dubious accounting practices to federal authorities, filed a new lawsuit in Rockland County Supreme Court against the Town of Ramapo this week.
The suit requests a writ of mandamus (an order from a court to an inferior government official ordering the government official to properly fulfill their official duties or correct an abuse of discretion) forcing the town to take action in connection with two separate disciplinary hearings the town conducted in 2013.
According to the lawsuit, Reimer, a former town finance adminstrator, was put on administrative leave in 2013 as retribution for her questioning St. Lawrence’s financial practices. As of Wednesday, those practices have earned St. Lawrence a conviction for bond fraud and a 30-month federal prison sentence.
The town had brought multiple sets of charges against Reimer after she allegedly “outed” former supervisor Christopher St. Lawrence, one questioning whether she had improperly conferred overtime hours to a friend in the police department and another for taping town officials improperly. Incidentally, it was some of those very tapes that helped the FBI form their case against St. Lawrence and his co-conspirators.
During the first hearing, Arbitrator William Sherwood upheld only the charge that Reimer had taped officials after being told not to and recommended a 20-day suspension.
Keen to the fact Sherwood was not going to give the town what they wanted, the town had already hired a second arbitrator and brought Reimer up on more charges. This second arbitrator ruled that Reimer should be terminated.
Reimer has not been terminated, however. She has remained on paid leave for over four years.
Reimer’s lawsuit alleges that, now four years later, the Town Board has never acted to confirm or reject either of the hearing officer’s findings and recommendations. Reimer needs a final action from the Town Board so she can properly challenge the findings in court. Without such an action by the Town Board, Reimer’s claims remain in limbo, as they are not legally ripe.
Reimer’s lawsuit claims that if she were to simply quit the town job, she would lose large amounts of accrued benefits and salary. Reimer alleges that her “termination” is hanging over her head and prevents her from gaining other full-time work. Reimer remains suspended with pay from her $153,000 per year position.
Reimer also has a federal and state lawsuit filed against the Town of Ramapo and various town employees stemming from her suspension and actions by the town in retaliation for her actions. During the disciplinary hearings Reimer’s attorney’s Fred Lichtmacher presented evidence that her non-cooperation with St. Lawrence’s unscrupulous practices had provoked her bosses to file charges against her in the first place.
As reported by www.preserve-ramapo.com: “Reimer’s attorney, Lichtmacher, established that Reimer did make allegations to one of the O’Connor Davies reps, Marci Moskowitz. Two specific complaints involved the sale of land to St. Lawrence’s Ramapo Local Development Corporation (the RLDC that built the ballpark and the Elm Street development), and the listing of assets, particularly one $3,080,000 receivable that kept getting carried forward on the town books from year to year without any funds justifying the listing.”