Governor Andrew Cuomo has assigned the East Ramapo School District a fiscal monitor to focus on solving the problems surrounding the public schools. According to State Education Commissioner John King, Hank Greenburg, an attorney from Albany, who worked as counsel with the governor during his time as Attorney General will be tasked with monitoring the fiscal crisis by looking through financial reports and books in order to make recommendations to the district. Reverend Weldon McWilliams a member of the Rockland Clergy, a group of religious leaders and local activists who has been traveling to Albany since April to speak with state leaders to gather support for the district and the students, stated that this is hopefully the first step toward an understanding between the East Ramapo Board of Education and community members. The school board and officials have stated that the extra monitoring will not solve the problem, according to many the state needs to change their aid formula to take into account the numerous private school students, which make up 22,000 out of the 31,000 kids in the district. The state added eleven percent to the aid East Ramapo received this year, though programs such as sports and the arts have remained cut.
A volunteer at the Hi Tor Animal Care Center in Pomona resigned from his position on Monday night after an alleged dispute with the board. According to Donald Franchino, who worked with the Hi Tor rebuild project for many years raising money to build a new shelter for animals, a complaint was filed with authorities accusing him of illegally using the shelter’s name to raise money for a separate fund. Franchino stated that the fund was set up with a separate tax number and account to protect money raised specifically for rebuild incase the shelter’s former director filed a lawsuit against them. Current board President Lizanne Fiorentino stated that Franchino was not running the rebuild project as he was supposed to and she had ordered for him to turn the funds raised over to Hi Tor’s original account, though Franchino stated that he was the one who had been asking for documentation of funds acquired for the first six months of the new president’s term, with no answer leading to the separate account. According to Fiorentino she filed complaints with the Rockland District Attorney’s Office as well as the State Attorney General’s office for Franchino to stop using Hi Tor’s name for his causes. Volunteers have raised about $300,000 for the shelter since the rebuild operation was announce in 2012.
The town of Ramapo recently addressed the challenge of town board member Daniel Friedman against the decision to hire Bernard Charles, husband of board member Brendel Charles, as a consultant and Melinda Malia, the daughter of town Building Inspector Anthony Malia, as a temporary Clerical Assistant. According to Parks and Recreation Director Michelle Antosca, Charles was recently chosen from three applicants as the new assistant recreation activities coordinator for the town, pending passing a civil service exam. Charles resigned from his position as Parks and Recreation Director with the Village of Spring Valley and the controversial $5,000 a month position as Ramapo Affairs Consultant, which was questioned by Friedman in January was terminated on May 30. The new full-time job pays $45,973 and was approved in a town vote 4-0, with Brendel Charles abstaining, at a May 28th meeting. At the same meeting the board approved the creation of a Town Attorney’s Office Service Aide position to be filled by Melinda Malia, with a salary of $41-42,000 a year. Her original temporary contract as clerical assistant was terminated. Friedman stated that he is happy with the outcome of the situations and called it a victory for taxpayers.
A Spring Valley police officer is under investigation after the release of a video online that shows the officer forcibly pushing a man to the ground. In the 16-second video a young man is holding a ticket and appears angry with the officer, about halfway through the video the officer appears to swing the man’s leg out from under him and holds him to the ground. Police Chief Paul Modica stated Monday that they are investigating the entire interaction, which was about five or six minutes long, and the video is 16 seconds of a situation not shown, which makes it troubling. According to Modica, investigators are looking into police and arrest reports and are speaking with witnesses and the officer, who was not named, is still on the job. Wilbur Aldridge, the Regional Director of the Mid-Hudson NAACP, stated that the video seems to be a “blatant form of police brutality,” and that the actions taken by the officer were unnecessary. Aldridge and Willie Trotman, President of the NAACP, spoke with Modica and believe that the investigation should close by the end of the week. Aldridge stated “the police officer should be held to a higher standard. He may be annoyed, but that’s the nature of the job.”
The woman partly responsible for planning 80-year old Valley Cottage resident Peggy Nadell’s death was arraigned in court on Monday night. 25-year old Andrea Benson of Washington DC was charged with second-degree murder and second-degree conspiracy in the January 25 murder of the elderly resident, along with the woman’s daughter-in-law Diana Nadell of Florida. Diana Nadell’s husband was set to receive half of his mother’s estate along with his sister, Suzanne Nadell-Scaccio, who found her mother’s body hours after the murder. Police have not charged either of Nadell’s children. Benson is the third woman arraigned in the group of four that were involved, joining 24-year old Elita Grant of California and 26-year old Tanisha Joyner of Washington DC in Rockland County Jail. They were both charged with second-degree conspiracy for creating alibis and helping plan the murder while Benson and Diana Nadell drove to Peggy Nadell’s home from Washington DC, where they beat and stabbed the woman. The two are expected to receive 8 to 25 years in prison. Benson’s murder charge means she could receive a sentence of 15 to 25 years to life in prison. Diana Nadell will be brought back to Rockland to face charges today or Wednesday.
New York State Judge, Mark Lahey, ruled that religious students being paid to study and answer questions from their peers were, “engaged in work.” In 2013 Rockland Social Services removed 118 families with 250 children from a list of people receiving temporary benefits and child care while working or looking for jobs. The waiting list includes 381 families with 700 children in all. Three families receiving about $52,450 from January to October from the program challenged the decision. Social Services defend their actions stating that the students had claimed exemptions on social security taxes and were not actually employees at the religious center, so did not qualify for child care. According to multiple students they aren’t paid for when they don’t work and they report all wages to the Internal Revenue Service. Lahey stated that there is no law that wage need to be subjected to FICA taxes to benefit from child care programs. Social Services Commissioner Susan Sherwood stated that they will be adding the three families back to the program.
The Spring Valley board is disputing over who will pay a private law firm that was hired in February by Trustees Vilair Fonvil, Emilia White, and Asher Grossman as a consultant. The firm Feerick Lynch MaCartney PLLC, submitted a bill for $14,509, most recently with a letter to Mayor Demeza Delhomme stating that part of the cost is for his attempt to remove Fonvil from his position and Delhomme stated that he will not pay it because he did not support hiring the firm in the first place. Delhomme stated, “I want a judge to tell me I must pay Lynch. I’m not going to give them a dime. It’s going to take the United States Supreme Court.” The vote to hire the firm took place in February when the three trustees decided they needed council after the village’s lawyers blocked twelve resolutions that would have changed some of the mayor’s actions. The mayor and Trustee Anthony Leon opted to leave the meeting early, missing the vote. Village Attorney Jerrod Miles represented Delhomme when the mayor tried to remove Fonvil, and Lynch represented Fonvil. Miles stated that he can’t take sides in the disagreement of payment because he initially represents the entire village board and so cannot go against his clients.
In response to the continuation of unapproved plans for a chicken slaughter house in New Square residents and government officials have set a protest for Sunday afternoon. The 3 million dollar plant, named Heritage Park, would process $5,000 chickens daily and opponents, such as Robert Rhodes, Chairman of Preserve Ramapo, have stated that the unknown environmental effects on the surrounding communities of New Square and New Hempstead is not worth the possible economic benefits. The plant is waiting for a 1.6 million dollar grant from the New York State Development Fund, which Assemblyman Kenneth Zebrowski has urged the state to rescind. Zebrowski, along with County Executive Ed Day and others will be speaking at the “Stop the Slaughterhouse” protest at 2:00 PM Sunday afternoon at the site of the new plant on Apta Boulevard and Tetiyuz Way. The site is planned to be $26,250 square feet instead of the original proposal of $50,000. Rhodes stated that the fight is for the environment, not against the community, zoning, or religions in the mostly Jewish neighborhood. The operator, Adir Poultry, wants to rebuild and expand its $5,000 square foot plant that was shut down in 2010 by the federal government for violations, including selling uninspected poultry since 2002.
The driver of an SUV lost control of his vehicle Tuesday night, running over a fifteen-year old girl and pinning her under the car inside the Finkelstein Memorial, after he crashed twenty feet into the front entrance. According to Spring Valley Police Lt. Jack Bosworth fire fighters and EMS workers had to lift the car off the girl, who was believed to have a broken leg along with other serious injuries. Bosworth stated that there were other non-life threatening injuries reported and one woman who was walking by and suffered a head injury. The Rockland County Sheriff’s Bureau of Criminal Investigations unit and Spring Valley Police are investigating the cause of the crash. The fifty or sixty-year old man driving the Toyota Rav-4 stated that he believed it was a mechanical problem. Police stated that alcohol appears not to be related to the crash and the vehicle’s speed is unknown at this time. According to Library Director Tracy Allen, the damage to the library is extensive, the circulation desk is half gone, and there is damage to the children’s room. Police have closed off the building due to exposed wires.
The bus fare hikes proposed over a month ago were approved to begin June 15. According to County Executive Ed Day the county will be initiating a “phased approach.” On June 15 the prices for a ten ticket book for TRIPS buses will be raised to $25 instead of the originally proposed $30 and sometime in the next year it will go up to $3 instead of $4 but will be raised to $4 in June 20115. The ADA fare was dropped from its longtime $4 per trip to $3, though it may go back up in 2015. For Transport of Rockland the E-Saver pass will be $20 for eleven rides, and paper tickets will no longer be available as of a date that has not been set yet. The unlimited 7-day E-Pass will be $30 and in 2015 the proposed $32 will be implemented.TAPPAN ZEExpress will be raised at a date that also has not been set, the E-Saver pass will be $30 for eleven rides, the unlimited 30-day E-Pass will be $100 and the proposed $120 will take effect in 2015. The Metro North/TZx Uni-ticket will be raised starting July, the bus portion going to $20 from $13 per week and $60 from $40 per month.