Why Juan Pablo Ramirez Warrants a Little More Public Scrutiny

August 2, 2015 When the news broke that the newly elected East Ramapo School Board member Juan Ramirez quit after just one meeting, the move caused quite a few raised eyebrows. The most interesting, and thoughtful response was posted by Steve White on his Power of Ten blog. Here’s what Steve had to say about this very odd maneuver.

New School Board Member Resigns after Just One Meeting

"East Ramapo’s newest school board member [Juan Pablo Ramirez] resigned today. He told the Journal News he had misjudged the amount of time it takes to be a school board member. Perhaps he should have attended at least one complete meeting before he ran for the board? Perhaps the 6000 people who voted for him should have asked if he had ever sat through even one meeting?

At the heart of the dysfunction in East Ramapo is the passionate participation of thousands of voters whose ignorance of current events in public education is enforced by edicts against reading the newspaper, listening to the radio, watching TV, or going on the internet. School board members have even participated in rallies in support of banning use of the internet.

The result of enforced ignorance of voters has been election of incompetent or abusive school board trustees. Trustees who hold most sessions in secret. Trustees who call members of the public ‘miscreants’. Trustees who tolerate high level employees who verbally abuse students and parents. Trustees who sue the state education department. Trustees who authorize real estate deals with beneficial terms for their friends. They don’t have to worry about the electorate watching their misdeeds analyzed on the evening news, the voters are not allowed to own television sets!

Only now that NY State has beaten them in court and threatens to force them to share power are they dialing back the arrogance a little. But the civil rights of the public school children will never be safe as long as enforced ignorance holds unchecked power."

(You can sign up to receive Steve White’s updates by going to http://poweroften.us)
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The Journal News reported Ramirez’s explanation for the hasty retreat from office: “This was not part of a political plan or strategy,” Juan Pablo Ramirez said, “This is just me feeling that my calling is to focus one hundred percent on my ministry.”

So, the candidate who was going to bring diversity to the overwhelming orthodox majority on the board lasted through one meeting. President of the Board, Yehuda Weissmandl had proudly announced “Ramirez’s election will make the board "more diverse" and that members hope and expect this addition will improve community relations in the district."

Weissmandl and the majority will now hand pick a replacement. It makes you wonder. Was Ramirez just the latest political Trojan Horse for the East Ramapo Board?

Bernard Charles 2.0

Do you remember when Bernard Charles (husband of Ramapo Town Board member Brendel Logan Charles) was named to the Ramapo Planning Board? That was March 13, 2013. Mr. Charles attended one meeting, and at that meeting he voted on one major issue—he voted yes on motions that gave developer Yechiel Lebovits the go-ahead with plans for a 500 residence sprawling complex on Route 202. Then he resigned.

Newsday noted that members of the East Ramapo Community “pointed to the Patrick Farm votes as evidence of an alliance with the Orthodox Jewish Community and real estate developers who serve that community.”

Previously, on March 12, 2013, just the day before he was appointed to the Ramapo Planning Board, Charles also was chosen to fill in on the East Ramapo School Board. The Journal News reported: “Charles had been appointed to the scandal-plagued school board in March by the board’s Orthodox and Haredi members after the only two members who were not Orthodox or Haredi abruptly resigned after claiming they were being harassed by the Orthodox and Haredi members who also allegedly made backroom deals and took secret votes, excluding the two non-Orthodox members.”

On the face of it, Bernard Charles seemed to present the opportunity for at least some diversity on the board. That is until he kind of publicly admitted his role when he said, on April 29, “I’m not going to conflict with my board members.” He was talking about his fellow school board members, since he had already served his purpose on the town planning board and did not conflict with them either.

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Which bring us back to Juan Pablo Ramirez and his resignation from the school board after a similarly very short tenure. Is this one more Bernard Charles seat shuffle?

Well, suppose we take Ramirez’s word for it. He quit the school board because his “calling is to focus one hundred percent on my ministry.” That’s very clear—one hundred percent.

So what percent will the obligation listed in the Town of Ramapo resolution below take up.

This is a seven-year term on the Ramapo Planning Board, which meets fairly regularly because it’s requiring a major effort to fully urbanize what has been, heretofore, just a town.

And this involvement with urban renewal in Ramapo extends not just to Juan Pablo. His wife is also has signed up in the effort with a three-and-a-half year commitment to the Ramapo Zoning Board of Appeals. That’s the group that holds, we believe, the New York State record for most variances granted one builder on one neighborhood project. That was 50 variances from local codes awarded to Jacob Wagschal on one neighborhood project in Monsey. See the appointment below. 

But that’s not all. Juan Pablo Ramirez was also recently appointed by Christopher St. Lawrence and his Board to the position of liaison for the Ramapo Police Department.

 

That 100% is starting to look a little chewed around the edges.

 

But this cozy relationship with St. Lawrence and the Board should not come as a surprise. Ramirez has been a Ramapo pinch-hitter/placeholder for longer than just the last two years. One of his first appearances at St. Lawrence’s side occurred on September 17, 2012. 

 

On September 6, 2012, a petition for referendum entitled, "SHALL THE NUMBER OF COUNCILMEN OR COUNCIL WOMEN OF THE TOWN OF RAMAPO BE INCREASED FROM FOUR TO SIX?" was filed with the Office of the Town Clerk of theTown of Ramapo. The petition for a vote on the Ward System had 343 pages containing 1975 signatures. Far in excess of what was needed to warrant a special election.

 

On September 10, 2012, four documents containing General Objections to the Petition were filed with the Office of the Town Clerk of the Town of Ramapo. On September17, 2012, four documents containing specific objections were filed with the Office of the Town Clerk of the Town of Ramapo. And who filed those objections to the signature pages that would allow the public to vote on whether we should have wards, each with its own representative? They were:

1.    Christian G.Sampson (Town Clerk and St. Lawrence’s left-hand man. Mona’s actually St. Lawrence’s right-hand-man.)

2.    Jacob Weiss (Developer)

3.    Hershy Itzkowitz (Remson Avenue Insurance professional)

4.    Jarrhett Oates

5.    Juan Pablo Ramirez

What followed with the court filing from these five was a two-year court battle to try to prevent the voters from being able to decide whether they should have a system that gave them a direct elected representative on the town board.

Juan Pablo Ramirez told the Journal News reporter that he doesn’t get involved in “political plans or strategies.” Hmmm. And that his sole concern now is his ministry. A 100% commitment would qualify as a singular focus, right? So why did he insert himself into the middle of the Ward vote as a formal objector representing the Town?

It looks like it’s time to keep a closer eye on Mr. Ramirez. Time to set a Google Alert watch on his name. Anybody sees anything, or hears anything, let us know. (Send a note to pr.webmaster@gmail.com.)

Michael Castelluccio
Preserve Ramapo
www.PreserveRamapo.org