Ramapo’s Secret Santa
December 24, 2014 Most towns don’t have a secret Santa. Unfortunately, here in Ramapo we do. Actually, he’s more of an anti-Santa, one that has low regard for the law and no concern for the children as they’re too young to vote. Elsewhere people get St. Nicholas, and here we get St. Lawrence.
How Bad is He?
If what defines Santa is a selfless concern and service to others, here’s what one of the town Bosses bottom-lined as the first rule in our Santa’s workshop: “You do not have to do the right thing here, you have to play ball and make the Supervisor (Santa) happy.”
But he is something of a Santa. That means he has a bag of gifts, right? That should count for something.
Well, yes and no. He is, and has been giving away tens of millions of taxpayers’ funds to his own company, the Ramapo Local Development Corporation (RLDC). That’s the corporation that built the Provident Ballpark and the housing on Elm Street in Spring Valley—the corporation for which St. Lawrence is both the President and Chairman of the Board. And the gifts of taxpayer funds to this LDC are, according to the NY Comptroller illegal.
In his audit of Ramapo, the Comptroller’s Office accused Santa and his helpers with a $60 million heist: “Town officials have inappropriately mingled the activities of the Town and the Ramapo Local Development Corporation in the construction of a minor league baseball stadium. . . These actions allowed the Town Officials to circumvent laws the Town is required to abide by for approval and construction of such projects.”
The same Comptroller has called for serious reforms of the LDC laws to ensure “that no local government or school district may guarantee or assume the debt of any not-for-profit corporation or LLC formed by, on behalf of, for the benefit of, or under the control of the local government or school district.”
As it stands, our Santa has burdened the taxpayers with $60 million in costs and debt to fund St. Lawrence’s RLDC. That’s just a partial total for the ballpark. There are millions in additional costs for other activities of this LDC workshop with only one rule—Massage Santa or he’ll be taking names for his blacklist.
Recent Gifts from our Secret Santa to Santa
The secrecy of these recent gifts (raids on public tax funds) is guaranteed by the Town Attorney Michael Klein. At the so-called public meetings when these resolutions come up for a vote, all he tells the public about them is: Item number 3a, the contract for Daktronics “as per the resolution before you.” That doesn’t reveal much to the public, and you’re not really allowed to go up to the Board’s table and say, let me take a look at what you’re talking about. It’s just “as per what’s in front of you,” and then they vote. Really annoying, but it follows the first rule: “Make the Supervisor happy.”
Here’s a selection of gifts to St. Lawrence’s RLDC paid for by an unknowing public, and pretty much kept out of sight:
$14,790 for the Daktronics scoreboard at the ballpark.
$14,664 paid to AMI Services Inc. for maintenance of the heating and air conditioning at the ballpark. Resolution 2014-60.
$900,000 paid to Leonard Jackson engineering the bulk of which we believe was for work at the ballpark. Resolution 2013-639.
for legal bills incurred by St. Lawrence’s RLDC.
But that’s not all. The taxpayers have been paying the gas and electric bill at the ballpark, and for just this year those numbers look like this:
Season Greetings to O&R from the Taxpayers of Ramapo.
$29,317.49 Jan 8, 2014 payment
60,575.86 Feb 6, 2014 payment
322.31 late charge payment
46,929.11 March 7, 2014 payment
439.76 late charge payment
54,281.70 April 8, 2014 payment
4,492.00 May 7, 2014 payment
2,696.92 June 6, 2014 payment
20,331.95 June 30, 2014 payment
17,846.35 July 7, 2014 payment
1,662.40 July 21, 2014 payment
19,361.65 Aug 25, 2014 payment
144,092.26 Sept 2, 2014 payment
25,753.74 Sept 29, 2014 payment
20,234.03 Oct 27, 2014 payment
$448,340.53 Total Gift (we don’t have Nov and Dec yet, but surely the Secret Santa will cover those—or rather, the taxpayers will.)
Recall, the Town of Ramapo does not own the ballpark, St. Lawrence’s RLDC does. So we continue to support this major failing enterprise not only with long-term massive debt, but also costs like those listed above. And even though the State Comptroller insists “no local government or school district may guarantee or assume the debt” of an LDC, nor should any town and LDC funds be “commingled,” the Comptroller does not have the power to enforce the law. That obligation falls to the Attorney General, Eric Schneiderman, and so far, as far as we can tell, he has been sitting on his hands.
The situation is not without hope, though. Perhaps there is a state investigation going on in the background after the most recent audit of the town’s finances by Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli. If not, there certainly is an active investigation, with federal attention focused on Santa and those elves most closely huddled around him. And so, perhaps there is a Dicken’s ending to the story that we all can look forward to with a slightly different ending than the one where Scrooge finally finds his humanity. Maybe this will be our happy ending in Ramapo:
The Spirit of Christmas Yet to Come