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Petition Drive for 2015 Preserve Ramapo Candidates

It’s time to kick off our petition drive for the Preserve Rockland ballot line. This year we will have a strong, diverse, balanced ticket, reflective of the broad coalition of ideology, ethnicity and geography that we represent.

Countywide we are endorsing Richard Vasquez (R) for Sheriff and Radhika Nagubandi (D) for Family Court Judge.  In Ramapo, Mike Parietti (I) is running for Supervisor again this year, along with Tim Scott (D) and Bill Weber (R) who are both running for Town Council. (More)

Please print several copies of the petition (click here) and read the instructions for collecting signatures here. The date for turning in your petitions is Wednesday August 5.

Nancy Cutler: Keep eyes on Ramapo ward vote count

July 26, 2015 "On July 29, the ballots will be tallied by town officials — who have most at stake in preserving the status quo.
The count will be done publicly, in a room in Town Hall. But many remain concerned that impartial and pro-ward participants
won't have enough access to ensure all — and only — relevant ballots are tallied. . . Ramapo Town Clerk Christian Sampson
described a prescribed process for validating the approximately 550 absentee and 2,500 affidavit ballots. Town of Ramapo
employees will perform those tasks. "Of course the media will be invited," he said, along with the petitioners, "and there may
be room for others to come in and observe the process ... but they can't interject in the process." Why not have a neutral party do this?
"Because we can do it ourselves," Sampson told me. The town has capable staff, he said. "It's very straightforward." [After numerous court
battles two years ago],When the vote finally took place, it was a mess. Amid heavy turnout, there much confusion over who could vote,
with some poll workers unaware that a town resident didn't need to be a registered voter to cast a ballot. The town's controversial
decision not to allow poll watchers added a gloss of conspiracy to the polling chaos." Read the complete text of Cutler's editorial here.

Most Rockland sewer officials ignore order to repay $90K in salaries

July 20, 2015 "Maybe they’ve been away on vacation or just got back and haven’t sorted through the mail that piled
up while they were gone. Whatever the reason, only three of 13 current or former elected officials have replied to
letters from Rockland County Executive Ed Day’s office ordering them to fork over the money he says they shouldn’t
have been paid while serving as sewer commissioners. And only one — stand up and raise your hand, Alex Gromack! — has
paid back the money. The June 9 letters that went out to officials from Ramapo, Clarkstown and Orangetown demanded that
they pay the money back by June 30 or risk being dragged into court and having interest and penalties tacked on." Full story
on Journal News online here.

Read a commentary on the salaries controversy by Robert Rhodes here.

Hoping for a Jury Trial: Lawsuit against East Ramapo School District continues

July 19, 2015 (From the Rockland County Times) A multitude of allegations against the East Ramapo Central School District
are detailed in a lawsuit — Montesa v. Schwartz, 12-cv-06057, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan) — filed
on behalf of parents, students and taxpayers by public interest law firm Advocates for Justice on August 8, 2012. Grievances alleged
against the district’s school board include selling school property at below market prices for private school use, special education
funding and buying religious textbooks, all of which plaintiff’s contend demonstrate a religious bias by the board’s majority Hasidic
and Orthodox Jewish members. “This is a First Amendment lawsuit; it alleges violations of First Amendment establishment clause;
it is not a class action lawsuit,” Laura Barbieri, counsel for the plaintiffs, explained. “It alleges the school board violated the constitutional
rights of students in the district in favor of the religious interests of the Hassidic and Orthodox community and is depriving public school
children of a sound-basis education and an opportunity for achievement and a quality education.” The lawsuit seeks at least $10 million
jointly and individually from all defendants. If the case goes before a jury, and the defendants are found liable, they may be required
to reimburse the district. (More)

Ramapo set to count ward system vote Wednesday July 29

July 19, 2015 "The Town Board has set a date of July 29 to count thousands of ballots that will decide whether voters approved 
electing Town Board members by district and adding two more people to the five-member governing body.
The election machines
votes, paper affidavit and write-in ballots have been locked away pending state court decisions on whether to count the ballots
or hold another election.
A state Appellate Division panel ruled June 24 that the votes must be counted, overriding Supreme Court
Justice Margaret Garvey, who invalidated the Sept. 30 election. Ramapo Town Board members authorized Town Clerk Christian
Sampson to publicly begin counting and validating the election starting at 9:30 a.m. July 29 at Town Hall. The Rockland County Board
of Elections has been custodian of the ballots since they were ordered to be seized by Garvey.
After the September vote, Garvey
ordered a new election based upon allegations of town improprieties in setting up the vote and in accepting affidavit and absentee ballots.
Full text of the Journal News story here.

Klein to follow D’Agostino

Sources: East Ramapo superintendent to lose post

July 19, 2015 "The East Ramapo school district will soon remove beleaguered Superintendent Joel Klein from his post, almost a
year before his contract is set to expire, several sources told The Journal News. In recent weeks, the school board has faced
intensifying pressure to distance itself from him – from community protests in front of Klein’s home demanding his resignation
to state Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch calling for the same.
The district, while not confirming that any action was imminent,
did confirm “that Klein was in the last year of his contract and that the school board would soon develop a process for replacement.”
Complete Journal News Coverage here.

Zebrowski pressures state on fire safety enforcement

July 16, 2015 "Assemblyman Kenneth Zebrowski, D-New City, also pressed the New York State Department of Education
in a separate letter to enforce regulations mandating private schools in Rockland submit annual fire inspection reports showing
the facilities are safe and meet regulations. He said 60 schools are in violation. Zebrowski and
a countywide housing task force
have raised concerns for several years
that the lives of firefighters, students, and predominately poor tenants are being
endangered by overcrowded houses carved up into multiple apartments and schools being operated in single-family homes
without proper fire suppression equipment. County Executive Ed Day now has the
Rockland Health Department inspecting
buildings for violations of the county sanitary code
and is publicly naming problem landlords.Officials have focused on Ramapo
and
Spring Valley, where the state Division of Building Standards and Codes issued critical reports on enforcement earlier this year.
The state agency investigated and visited both communities before issuing the reports.
Zebrowski said he also wants the state
to review the enforcement in the villages of New Hempstead and Kaser. In his letter, he told
new state Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia
to enforce the mandate that private schools file annual fire safety reports. The department's review of aid applications from private schools
is supposed to include the number of students, those safety reports and compliance with local zoning.
Zebrowski proposed legislation in 2014
that would require the Education Department to withhold funding from schools that have not filed fire safety reports." Complete Journal News
coverage here.

F:\Neva Court\IMG_6596.jpeg

Apparently, Not all neighbors are equal in  Ramapo
Illegal shortcut on Ramapo-owned land remains in use one year later

July 16, 2015 "People are still walking along an illegal shortcut built on town-owned property between two homes
in Ramapo, even though it has been more than a year since the town became aware of the problem.Neighbors became
concerned last summer after seeing strangers walking around their quiet residential streets to get to the 300-foot paved
walkway, which connects 1 Neva Court to 9 Quince Lane. Though no one but the owners of the two properties has legal
access to the shortcut, the two homeowners claim in court they didn't build it. Bushes were cleared and trees were taken
down to make room for the path, and the only other way to access it is to cut through dense growth behind other private
homes in the area.
The Journal News first reported on the path in January. "I'm disappointed because it's been taking so
long in the process," said Bob Cohen, who, along with his neighbors, alerted town officials about the shortcut.Ramapo sued
the two homeowners after the town's request to restore the woods went nowhere. The case is pending in state Supreme
Court in New City. The next court date is set for Sept. 9. Tom Eichenberger, another neighbor, echoed Cohen's sentiment,
saying that allowing this illegal act for more than a year diminishes the town's authority." Read the complete Journal News story here.

Journal News to ERCSD: Fire Joel Klein and Stop Illegal Special Ed Placements

July 12, 2015 "Calls to remove Superintendent Joel Klein – by protesters at each meeting, and by New York State
Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch – must be heeded. Klein last year blamed older immigrant students coming to the
district for damaging the district's graduation rates. "They want to learn the language. They want free lunch, breakfast,
and whatever else they can get. They know they cannot get a diploma," Klein said during an August 2014 meeting. Protests
have been held ever since, at just about every school board meeting, including Tuesday's. Klein has said his words were
distorted and taken out of context. In a district where most students are children of color, where many are immigrants,
where dozens of languages are spoken, such misunderstanding and stereotyping cannot stand. Klein must go." Read the
full text of the editrorial here.

Politicians and the East Ramapo School District: Profiles in Cowardice

July 11, 2015 In 1957 John F. Kennedy won a Pulitzer Prize for writing Profiles in Courage, a volume of short
biographies describing acts of bravery and integrity by eight United State Senators who did the right thing despite
criticism and damage to their political careers.  In New York we have the complete opposite:  “Profiles in Cowardice”,
where self-serving politicians do the wrong thing and sacrifice the future of thousands of schoolchildren in order to retain
the support of the ultra-religious and electorally powerful bloc vote. (More)

East Ramapo schools hire new law firm

July 8, 2015 "The East Ramapo school board is parting ways after six years with Minerva and D'Agostino, the pricey
Long Island-based law firm that many say added to an already volatile atmosphere in the district.
The board hired
New York City-based Harris Beach as its new legal representative Tuesday at a 7 p.m. reorganization meeting that
drew more than 100 people, including Judith Johnson, the Lower Hudson Valley's representative on the state Board
of Regents, and Family Court Judge Sherri Eisenpress. Many residents at the meeting held signs criticizing Superintendent
Joel Klein and Yehuda Weissmandl, who was appointed for another term as board president.
The board hired Harris Beach
by a vote of 6-0, with two abstentions and one member absent.
East Ramapo had been spending nearly $1,000 a day on the
high-powered firm. The Journal News reported last year that D'Agostino's firm had billed the district $322,000 for services and travel
just between July 2013 and May 2014. When the firm was hired in 2009, it was at twice the rate the district's previous law
firm had been paid."Mr. D'Agostino has stood as a symbol of the unresponsive, disrespectful manner in which the East Ramapo
leadership has treated the district's families," said Andrew Mandel, co-founder of the activist group Strong East Ramapo.
"Replacing his firm, something the school board promised to do two years ago after a particularly despicable episode toward
parents, is a long overdue beginning to a total overhaul of the district." Read the complete Journal News coverage here.

Monsey energy company paying $1.25M to cover fraud: officials

July 7, 2015 "A Monsey-based energy company accused of ripping off people by falsely promising lower rates
is being forced to repay $1.25 million to 25,000 customers, the state attorney general said Monday. After an the
introductory rate, customers of HIKO Energy LLC saw their electricity bills soar, the AG said in a news release.
The
settlement amount, which includes fines, resulted from an investigation by the office's Consumer Protection Bureau.
The office found HIKO lured consumers with false promises of lower rates of 10 to 15 percent and then fleeced them
with much higher bills." The company had a contract with the Town of Ramapo and donated to the campaign funds of
St. Lawrence, Daniel Friedman, and Ilan Schoenberger. Complete Journal News story here.

Patrick Farm builders owe Rockland $607K in taxes

July 6, 2015 "The builders of the proposed 496-unit Patrick Farm housing development owe Rockland more than
$607,000 in taxes on the 208-acre property outside Pomona, officials said. The tax delinquency dates to 2013,
county officials said, and if the debt is not paid by year's end, the county could foreclose and sell the land at public
auction. The Monsey-based builders appear to be trying to pay off some of the debt. They entered into a two-year
installment plan this month at 1 percent interest with the county to pay $382,154 owed on two of the six delinquent
parcels, officials said. Those parcels house the stables and land that have been used by the Rockland Sheriff's Office
horse unit for nearly four decades. The rent paid by the county to the owners will be held in escrow until the taxes
are paid, officials said.
Patrick Farm owners' current tax debt includes Rockland, town, school and village taxes. The
Patrick Farm builders operate under the companies Scenic Development LLC and Scenic Development SM LLC,
whose partners include veteran builders Yechiel Lebovits, his sons, and Abraham Moscovits." Complete Journal News
coverage here.

 

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East Ramapo board must do the right thing

July 5, 2015 All of our state legislators were united in their demand that
a robust and powerful monitor be appointed to oversee the East Ramapo
School District with powers to act in the interests of the public schoolchildren
in real time. They agreed that the district should get more money for the
restoration of public school services once the monitor bill was passed.
Money was set aside during the budget process for this very result.
It was the opponents of the bill that "left money on the table." (More)

Expert: United Water system, and its books, leak badly

July 1, 2015 "United Water's Rockland County system has been leaking high amounts of water for decades and its
poor record-keeping makes it hard to figure out how much water the company is using or losing, according to a
nationally respected consultant.Conservation and efficiency expert Amy Vickers also said water demand in the county
has been flat since 2000 despite a growing population — a trend that may continue for the foreseeable future. United
Water is in the midst of trying to recoup from customers nearly $50 million it says was spent in pursuit of a controversial
desalination plant the company said was needed to address long-term demand.Preliminary estimates showed about 4.4 million
to 7 million gallons of water a day could be saved through recoverable leaks and conservation, Vickers says.
The presentation
also took aim at the "snail's pace" of replacing water mains that puts the company on "an astounding 704-year schedule in 2014,
on top of being more than a decade behind the state's recommended timetable for surveying leaks in system mains." Read
the complete Journal News story here.
Click here to watch a video of Amy Vickers' presentation or read the document.

School Politics                                                     

June 29, 2015  The East Ramapo schools are a victim of the increasing influence that the religious leadership in Brooklyn
exercises in Albany.  As the separation of church and state has been eroded, the same organizational forces are running
interference for East Ramapo’s renegade school board. (More)

Carlucci’s Bill Short-circuited the Monitor

June 29, 2015 The day after the New York bill to appoint a monitor for the East Ramapo School Board
had died in the Senate, those opposing the oversight were congratulating themselves online with the
kind of bravado that seemed to include great relief that the fire had been put out. At the same time,
there was a groundswell of recriminations directed at the Senate Republicans who had refused to bring
the proposed bill up for a vote. Also Friday morning, the Wall Street Journal reported that the Chancellor
of the Board of Regents, Merryl Tisch, was calling for the resignation of the East Ramapo Superintendent
of Schools Joel Klein. Two days later, on Sunday morning, a large group of parents accompanied by Channel 12
News gathered in front of Klein’s home in New City calling for the Superintendent’s resignation. Standing on the side through all this,
attracting very little notice, was the agent who had helped engineer the killing of the bill. (More)

No state monitor for East Ramapo schools

June 25, 2015 "The state Legislature did not approve a measure that would put in place a state monitor in the troubled East
Ramapo school district. The sides have been at odds over the monitor in recent weeks after the Assembly passed a measure
to give the monitor sweeping powers, but the Republican-led Senate balked. The Legislature won't return to the Capitol until
January.
Assemblyman Kenneth Zebrowski, D-New City, also acknowledged that a deal won't be reached before the session ends.
He put the blame on the Senate for not supporting the bill that passed the Democratic-controlled Assembly on June 11. "I think the
state Senate leadership turned its back on East Ramapo's children," Zebrowksi said. "We felt we had a sound and reasonable approach
to the issue. However, recognizing the Senate's opposition, we attempted to negotiate. But at the end of the day, the Senate refused
to authorize a monitor that had authority over anything other than state or federal law.
Zebrowski and Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee, D-Suffern,
opposed the Senate bill because it would limit the monitor's power to decisions made by the school district that could infringe on state
and federal law. Zebrowski and Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee, D-Suffern, opposed the Senate bill because it would limit the monitor's power
to decisions made by the school district that could infringe on state and federal law.
" Read the complete Journal News story here.

Appeals court: Count the Ramapo ward system votes

June 24, 2015 "A state appeals panel says Ramapo must count the ballots from its ward system vote last fall. The Appellate
Division panel overruled Supreme Court Judge Margaret Garvey's invalidation of the Sept. 30 election, which asked whether
voters should elect Town Board members from districts and add two more members to the town's governing body. After the
September vote, Garvey ordered a new election based upon allegations of improprieties in setting up the vote, and in accepting
affidavit and absentee ballots. Before the September referendum,
Romanowski and Parietti had battled for nearly two years in
court to force Ramapo to hold the ward system vote. In their court papers after the balloting,
Parietti and Romanowski challenged
the town's decision
to let unregistered voters participate in the referendum, causing confusion at the polls.They also objected to
the town's decision not to count absentee ballots that arrived after Sept. 30 even though applications listed the deadline as the
seventh day after the election." Complete Journal News coverage here. Read the Appellate Division ruling:

https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/2110320-doc062415-06242015143544.html

Desmaret sentenced to three years in federal prison

June 18, 2015 "Former Spring Valley Deputy Mayor Joseph Desmaret was sentenced Thursday to three years in
federal prison for his part in a corruption scheme involving a proposal to build a village-owned catering hall on Route 45.
Desmaret showed little reaction as he was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Kenneth Karas in U.S. District Court in White
Plains."Everyone who takes the oath of office should understand that when they say 'yes' to a a bribe, there are
consequences," Karas said as he announced the sentence. Karas noted that Desmaret's boss, former Spring Valley Mayor
Noramie Jasmin, and New York City politicians were also involved in the complex plot. Jasmin was found guilty of corruption
in April. She will be sentenced Aug. 7. Karas will not be sentencing her but noted that her role in the scheme was worse
than Desmaret's."The scope of her greed is more profound," he said. Complete Journal News coverage here.

Ex-Spring Valley trustee Desmaret wanted to aid feds

June 17, 2015 "Former Spring Valley Deputy Mayor Joseph Desmaret offered to cooperate with federal corruption
investigators in a bid to lessen his prison sentence for taking a $10,600 bribe from a FBI operative peddling a
fictitious development, a court document states. But prosecutors and the FBI determined Desmaret had nothing to
offer,
according to the memorandum submitted by his lawyers in advance of his scheduled sentencing Thursday.
"Despite his best efforts, which were numerous and sincere, Mr. Desmaret was not able to aid the government in
any meaningful way," New City attorney Deborah Wolikow-Loewenberg wrote.
Document:Read the memorandum
Desmaret, 57, a computer technician and accountant, faces a maximum of seven to nine years in prison. He pleaded
guilty in January 2014 to mail fraud and Hobbs Act extortion." Complete Journal coverage here.

East Ramapo bill passes state Assembly

June 12, 2015 "After a three-hour heated debate, the state Assembly on Thursday approved a bill that would
install a state monitor at the troubled East Ramapo school district. But the vote didn't come easily, and it faces
an even tougher fight in the Republican-controlled Senate with just days left in the legislative session.The measure
passed the Democratic-led Assembly, 80-56. Assembly members Ellen Jaffee and Kenneth Zebrowski, who represent
the Rockland County district and are the Democratic sponsors of the bill, beat back extensive questioning and criticism
from their colleagues, particularly Orthodox Jewish lawmakers. Jaffee and Zebrowski said the bill is critical because
the district has been mismanaged and has unique circumstances."This was a much more modified approach to responding
to what is a very serious situation -- not a takeover, not the removal of the board – but an opportunity for guidance
and interaction and collaboration," Jaffee said.The bill would require the state education commissioner to appoint a
monitor to oversee the school board and develop a five-year improvement plan for the district.The monitor was
recommended in a critical state report about the district in November because the majority of students in the district
attend private schools, mostly in the Ultra-Orthodox Jewish community that runs the school board." Read the complete
Journal News coverage here.

East Ramapo school board loses special-education court case as legal costs soar

June 10, 2015 "The East Ramapo school district has lost another round in its fight against the state over placement
decisions for special education students.
In a ruling late last week, a state appellate court in Albany upheld the Education
Department's determination that the district violated special education law by settling too readily with parents who
wanted their children placed in private religious schools." Complete Journal News coverage here.

Jewish leaders support E. Ramapo oversight bill

June 7, 2015 "Leaders from several prominent Jewish organizations expressed support Thursday for a bill that would
install a state monitor in the troubled East Ramapo school district. Representatives from the American Jewish Committee,
Rockland Clergy for Social Justice, Uri L'Tzedek and Reform Jewish Voice of New York held a news conference Thursday at
the West Side Jewish Center in Manhattan."Oversight for East Ramapo is supported by thousands and thousands of Jews,"
said Rabbi Ari Hart of Uri L'Tzedek, an Orthodox social justice organization." Complete Journal coverage here.

East Ramapo School Board Loses another Lawsuit—ADL Supports the State Monitor Bill

June 7, 2015 "New York's highest court has ruled against the East Ramapo board in their lawsuit against the NY State
Education Department. The school board was cited by the education department for unlawfully placing students in private
schools at public expense on August 27, 2010." Read Steve White's Power of Ten update posted yesterday here.

When a School Board Victimizes Kids

June 3, 2015 "NEW YORK STATE has a proud tradition of local decision making in public education. However, students
in the public schools in East Ramapo, about 30 miles north of Manhattan, in Rockland County, are being denied their state
constitutional right to a sound basic education by a board that has grossly mismanaged the district’s finances and educational
programs." Read the full text of the editorial published in the Times by Merryl Tisch chancellor of the New York State Board
of Regents here.

An Immoral Use of Jewish Power in Upstate New York

June 2, 2015  An editorial by Ari Hart appearing in the Forward today. "As an Orthodox Jew, when I first learned about
what was happening in East Ramapo and about the attitudes of the board, I was shocked and disgusted. The Talmud teaches,
“The world endures only for the sake of the breath of school children.” The public actions of this school board over the years
have been in flagrant violation of that and so many other Jewish values and teachings. The Torah we share demands over and
over again we never trample the stranger, the immigrant and the poor — apt descriptions of many in the public school district.
They have also caused a massive Chillul Hashem — desecration of God’s name. The leadership of the school board to date has
grossly violated both American and Jewish values. This is not the way to use Jewish power in America." Read the full text of
the editorial here.

BLOCKED! Illegal housing crackdown initiative stalls in legislative committee

Frustrated first-responders walk out after Soskin and Schoenberger delay vote

May 29, 2015  "Spring Valley Fire Department Captain Justin Schwartz acknowledged that many legislators made an effort
to avoid getting bogged down in technicalities, but he condemned others for what he saw as a dangerous apathy and even
reluctance to offer support. 'They don't give a damn about the peoples' lives. They're pontificating on legalese. These
legislators are fiddling while the county is burning." (More--including Ed Day's comments on the meeting.)    

East Ramapo oversight bill gains traction