A Tale Of Two Towns
County Legislator Lon Hofstein
Certain members of the Rockland County Legislature have dedicated a great deal of time to the recent disciplinary hearing pending over the actions of Clarkstown Police Chief, Michael Sullivan.
At the last session of the Rockland County Legislature, two legislators initially proposed a resolution to urge the members of the Clarkstown board to reinstate Chief Sullivan without having any evidence that his reinstatement is warranted. Chief Sullivan is of course already presumed innocent until and unless proven otherwise. Yet for some reason, the Legislature is expected to pass judgment prior to any evidence being presented.
This particular matter was of such importance to the legislators sponsoring this resolution that they deemed it necessary to be presented under what is known as “New Business”. In order for a matter to be presented under “New Business” the situation is required to be a matter of emergency.
As a legislator I am entitled to express my opinion on resolutions presented, yet multiple times throughout my statement Chairman Alden Wolfe abruptly interrupted me. He stated that my comments needed “to stay on track” and said I must speak solely about the time sensitive aspects of the resolution presented.
Could it be that the Chairman sensed I was leading to comparative situations in the Town of Ramapo that were never addressed by this same legislature? In his effort to gather the support of the audience and belittle my opinion, he responded with words to the effect that he was tired of people speaking about the “boogeyman in Ramapo”.
How interesting is it that the Chairman Wolfe allowed the next legislator to speak about Archibald Cox, the special investigator for the Watergate investigation? Referring to events that happened in an adjacent Town in Rockland County is considered going off track, yet discussing an investigation that took place in Washington D.C. forty-three years ago is permitted and in his opinion germane? In fairness, Wolfe warned that legislator that his points were off track, but that legislator was allowed to continue with far fewer and less vocal objections.
Could Chairman Wolfe be trying to avoid the reality that this whole inappropriate affair seems to be ‘a tale of two towns’? What happens in Ramapo stays in Ramapo, but what happens in Clarkstown is for us to judge immediately and without any due process?
The chairman’s responsibility is to oversee the actions and business of the legislature in a fair and independent manner. To restrict a fellow legislator’s comments, for whatever reason, is wrong and is a disservice to the people.
I think it is important for the public to have an opportunity to read the statement that I intended to read in its entirety. The foundation of this great country was built on the right of freedom of speech. It is unfortunate that some may feel differently when confronted with truths they don’t wish to hear.
Here are the complete comments I was prevented from making to the County Legislature:
Let me preface my comments by stating that over the last few years I have had an opportunity to interact with Chief Sullivan on several occasions and I can personally state that he has always been cordial and professional. In addition, I am a resident of Clarkstown and have the utmost respect for the professionalism and competence of the Clarkstown Police Department.
The issue at hand has nothing to do with my views on Chief Sullivan or the Clarkstown Police Department.
Let me begin by letting you know how I first learned of this resolution. I received a text with a screen shot of a post on FaceBook mentioning this resolution which was approximately 3 PM on Friday.
At 4:18 PM that same day I received a call stating I was being given a “heads up” courtesy call that I will be receiving an email from the legislature about this resolution.
Please keep in mind that I was given a “courtesy heads up call” over one hour AFTER the news was posted on Facebook.
When I said to the caller this matter is not under our jurisdiction, the immediate response was ” what about the resolution for an independent fiscal monitor for the East Ramapo school district?”
This immediate response led me to question is this resolution about supporting the chief of police or an act of political revenge?
The East Ramapo resolution was based on the report of a New York State appointed fiscal monitor who called for state intervention. Our local state representatives asked the County Legislature to get involved. The East Ramapo School Board has been systematically failing to provide a NYS mandated education to thousands of children.
I feel when one governmental body consistently and willfully fails and neglects to carry out its responsibilities to its citizens, that is when it is appropriate for another layer of government to intervene.
Can someone explain to me the correlation between the systemic violation of the civil rights of thousands of children and a personnel matter transpiring in a Town?
If some of my fellow legislators believe it is appropriate to intercede in such a matter, let me remind them of events that took place in Ramapo:
May 2013 – The F.B.I. raids Town Hall and seizes records and computers from the Town of Ramapo.
June 2013 – Melissa Reimer the Supervisor of Fiscal Services for the Town of Ramapo was suspended WITHOUT PAY for speaking out about improper fiscal activities taking place in the Town of Ramapo.
June 2014 – The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission announced an investigation into possible corruption and criminality going on in the Town of Ramapo.
March 2016 – Ramapo Town Councilman Samuel Tress a convicted felon admittedly living in New Jersey, was arrested by the Rockland County District Attorney’s office on a new felony charge alleging he used his position to personally profit from a matter on which he voted.
April 2016 – Ramapo Town Supervisor Christopher St. Lawrence, along with N. Aaron Trooder, who was the executive director of the Ramapo Local Development Corporation were arrested by federal agents.
May 2016 – Ex police chief of the town of Ramapo Peter Brower the HIGHEST PAID public employee in the state (earning approximately $369,000 per year) used his secretary in the Ramapo police department to prepare the payroll for his private business.
All these events transpired yet not one resolution was proposed to condemn those involved in criminal matters or to defend Ms.Reimer for stepping forward. Yet when the Town of Clarkstown calls for an internal disciplinary hearing on the police chief, suddenly now it is time for this Legislature to act?
The motivation behind this resolution appears to be entirely political in nature.
Why are we being asked to prejudge a legal proceeding? Chief Sullivan is presumed innocent. The burden of proof rests upon his accusers. Why would this body seek to intervene?
This leads me to ask: “Why now is this brought before the legislature?”
During my “Heads Up Courtesy Call” I was informed this would be presented under “New Business”.
During our last legislative session, the chairman of this Legislature offered a thorough lecture that new business was to be used for emergency situations only. It was during that session a proposal to increase a bond was presented. A portion of that bond was to be used to move County employees from a building that was considered unsafe. The chairman stated that was not an emergency.
Another motion was presented to vote on an offer in excess of Four million dollars for the sale of the Sain Building. We all know the proceeds of this sale was included in the County budget for 2016, once again a vote was denied stating it was not an emergency.
Yet here we are today listening to a resolution to direct a town to reinstate their chief of police without a shred of evidence, a matter by the way which is not under our jurisdiction and that is considered an emergency?
In my opinion this does not fit under the category of “Emergency” so I ask, why was this brought before us? Is this an opportunity for someone potentially seeking another political office to secure future endorsements?
I have sat in this Legislative Chamber and listened time and time again to the Chairman of this body continuously criticizing the actions of the Rockland County Executive accusing him of the very same conduct he carries out tonight.
That is outright hypocrisy.
Has anyone questioned why Legislators that represent districts in Ramapo feel the need to present such a resolution? Especially when so many controversial events have transpired in the districts they represent and they never felt the need to react.
As I reflect on what is transpiring here it reminds me of a song sung by a group named the Stylisitcs, the title of the song is “Sideshow“. Let me share with you the opening lyrics:
“Hurry, hurry, step right up see the saddest show in town”.
Ladies & Gentlemen, I can truly understand the passion you feel about this situation, but we instill upon our children that laws and rules are written and must be followed.
Our society is based on law and order ensured through a legal system with checks and balances. If we do not abide by that process, we end up with chaos.
Many of you here today are representatives of law enforcement or family members of those that work in law enforcement. You or your family member have my utmost respect for their role in upholding the law.
All I ask is to allow that process to be carried out.