On Wednesday a judge ruled that the town of Ramapo will not require poll watchers for the ward referendum on Tuesday September 30. Activists Michael Parietti and Robert Romanowski, who originally filed petitions to hold the vote that would decide whether or not to switch the town to a six ward system that will allow voters to choose a representative based on the area of town they live and increase board members from four to six, asked the judge on Wednesday to order the town’s use of poll watchers. Last week Ramapo Supervisor Christopher St.Lawrence stated that poll watchers will not be used, with Deputy Town Attorney Janice Gittleman reasoning in court that state law requires poll watchers be present for a candidate election, not a proposition. State Supreme Court Justice Margaret Garvey stated that based on state law, political parties appoint poll watchers, and so the town will not be required to do so for this vote. According to Parietti this will make it difficult to challenge the results, without proof of possible irregularities.
According to East Ramapo school board president Yehuda Weissmandl, the district will be working with a new government relations team to help them obtain state aid. Weissmandl stated that they hired lobbyist Darren Dopp of the firm Patricia Lynch Associates as a media consultant to handle press-related issues in June, around the same time Hank Greenburg was appointed as the district’s fiscal monitor by Governor Andrew Cuomo. The district signed a seven month long contract with the firm, playing $7,000 a month. Dopp stated that his goal is to help district officials and residents work together toward getting money for students and programs.
Early Tuesday morning police responded to a call in New City from a woman up around 3:00 AM to find her one-year old pet goats being mauled by a neighbor’s two dogs. According to Marie Harrow, who spoke with the Journal News about her incident, she went into her backyard and found two dogs attacking her Nigerian Dwarf goats, Sonny and Poppy, inside their pen and attempted to fight the dogs off, though eventually she had to give up and call the police. Harrow stated that she has raised goats for over 30 years and in November 2012 the same dogs attacked and killed another two of her goats. Jason and Lauren Feldman, the owners of the dogs, who are 45-pound part labrador mixes, were fined by Clarkstown Justice Court and Harrow was forced to build a taller pen. This time Clarkstown Animal Control Officer Patricia Coleman stated that she took the dogs to Hi Tor Animal Care Center and will be pursuing with the courts a dangerous dog order. The judge can then issue a fine, or have the dogs euthanized.
A Ramapo Town Board member announced this week that she has written a letter to the U.S. Justice Department asking for guidance in the upcoming ward vote. Brendel Charles wrote to two Assistant Attorneys General asking for a meeting to discuss the upcoming ward vote, stating that if instituted the system would “use the unconstitutional methods of packing and minority vote dilution.” Charles is the only minority leader on the board and stated that she wants to protect the minority residents in the town to be sure they are properly represented and to be sure the district lines will be clearly drawn. According to Michael Parietti and Robert Romanowski, who filed the petitions for the referendum, with the current system minorities are faced with a lack of representation and the ward system, which would allow voters to choose their representative based on the area of the town they live, and would increase the number of members on the board from four to six, would solve any problems of misrepresentation. Parietti stated that he would welcome the Attorney General to be a part of the vote, and to ensure the districts are fairly drawn. Spring Valley Trustee Anthony Leon, former Ramapo Board member Fran Hunter, and former Hillburn Mayo Bernard Jackson all signed the letter to the Justice Department.
According to the Rockland District Attorney’s office a three- month investigation into local drug dealers has led to the arrest of nineteen people. District Attorney Thomas Zugibe stated that the undercover investigation targeted street-level dealers, not users, and that two people in the county have died from heroin since his team announced a plan to fight drug abuse last week. Along with the nineteen arrests the DA’s office and Rockland’s Drug Task Force seized five guns, ammunition, cash, oxycodone, powdered cocaine, crack, and heroin. All suspects have been charged with felony counts of third-degree criminal sale and possession of a controlled substance and face up to nine years in prison.
A Ramapo resident and community leader was arrested on Monday on charges of first-degree offering a false instrument, second-degree criminal possession of a false instrument and second-degree forgery. According to police, Shimon Sontag was accused of submitting forged documentation to the Ramapo Tax Assessor’s Office to obtain a tax exemption for the Rose Ocko Foundation, which Sontag is the President of and was set up to provide assisted living housing on 34-acres of land. According to the man’s lawyer, Kenneth Gribetz, he denies the charges, pleaded not guilty and was released from jail with no bail. Sontag faces 2 to 7 years in prison and will return to court on November 6.
On Monday Judge William Nelson acquitted a former head of football coach at Ramapo High School of charges that he assaulted a student. In October 2013, then 15-year old student Brandon Girault came forward with claims that Duffman Pannell had hit him in the head with a helmet when he became angered at a practice, causing a cut to open on the boy’s forehead and a concussion. According to Pannell’s lawyer, David Goldstein, the judge ruled that Girault’s testimony in the civil lawsuit his family filed, changed before the judge during the trial. Pannell was acquitted of a felony charge of second-degree assault and a misdemeanor charge of endangering the welfare of a child. The former social studies and economics teacher, who lost his job after being accused, has asked for his teaching position back, but Defensive Coordinator Kevin Bullock was placed as the coach during Pannell’s absence.
According to Ramapo Police, a 25-year old man was arrested last week for allegedly attempting to sexually molest a young boy. Police Sargent Brian Corbett stated that Abraham Widenbaum, who lives in a group home for developmentally disabled adults, was charged with first-degree attempted sexual abuse and luring a child, a felony, and a misdemeanor charge of endangering the welfare of a child, when he used candy to lure the 6-year old boy from his yard on Wedesday evening to an empty room at a nearby synagogue. According to police the boy ran home when he was asked to bring back a friend and informed his parents. Police found Widenbaum on Friday evening, and arrested him without releasing details of what occurred in the room, and held him at Rockland County Jail on $75,000 bail. He will return to court on Tuesday. The arrest follows unrelated reports of attempted lurings in Nanuet and Blauvelt and police urge that parents remain vigilant with their children.
According to Suffern Police Chief Clarke Osborn the Rockland Drug Task Force and police officers arrested a 23-year old Suffern resident after a month-long investigation into the man’s alleged drug sales. Police stated that Sammy Foda was found in his home with marijuana, and ingredients for making methamphetamine, for which they called the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and a hazmat team to be sure the chemicals were not a danger. Foda was charged with third-degree unlawful manufacture of meth, third-degree criminal possession of marijuana and fifth-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance, all felonies and a misdemeanor count of criminal possession of a controlled substance.
New York State Supreme Court Justice Gerald Loehr ruled in court that the estate of missing Eugene Palmer, who is under indictment for second-degree murder for the killing of his daughter-in-law Tammy Palmer, will go to his two grandchildren. Loehr ordered that credible evidence proves Tammy Palmer was killed by her 73-year old father-in-law and the $2.150 million from his accounts and properties will be split between Tammy Palmer’s children with Palmer’s son, who are 13 and 17 for their college funds and future needs. On September 24, 2012 Eugene was accused of shooting tammy on his property before disappearing. Police found his truck in a fire break in Harriman State Park, where his family believes he has since died from several health issues he faced, including a heart condition, diabetes, and dementia.