Leadership that’s working is something we all want, whether it be the coach of our favorite baseball team, the company we have stock in; or our government – especially in a time of crisis. Until the election of Ed Day to Rockland County Executive and the purge of certain Republicans that followed, leadership in the Rockland County Republican Party could best be described as leadership that was faking.
‘Leadership That’s Working’ is actually the title of a Political Action Committee (PAC) account that appears to have been established in 2003. On the New York State Board of Elections web-site its existence begins with its January 2006 periodic filing, which is when the state took ownership of such filings. Previously, the filings were overseen by the local Board of Elections for that particular county. The Treasurer of ‘Leadership That’s Working’ is Nathan Oberman, the Deputy Director of Finance and Receiver of Taxes for the Town of Ramapo; plus a long time political crony of Chris St. Lawrence. There is something odoriferous about a government employee either beholding or supporting their boss who happens to be an elected official, but that’s a story for another day.
When the account was created the title was not at all unusual as every new administration starts off with the promise of fresh ideas, transparency and improved leadership. No one could have foreseen the Walter Mitty version of government that ensued, the latest episode featuring St. Lawrence hoisting the Stanley Cup over his head at his latest economic disaster, the skating rink at his Pomona ballpark. Now I can make a million jokes about the title of the account, but suffice to say leadership that’s failed miserably sums it up, which is really not a correct characterization since failing usually means attempting to succeed to begin with.
‘Leadership That’s Working’ is your typical PAC. Now if you have issues with PAC’s, and campaign finance in general, than there is nothing good about it. A review of the account since 2006 reveals it is little more than a vehicle to support the efforts of the St. Lawrence administration. It acts no better or worse than any other PAC, the real main objective to legally circumvent campaign contribution limits with a major by-product of obfuscation along the way.
Now if you do not like Chris St. Lawrence, or anything remotely connected to him, like the latest turmoil surrounding Rockland County Sewer District One, of which he is currently the acting chairman, the names of many of the donors and beneficiaries will just reinforce that feeling. The contributions and expenditures come from and go to cronies and/or those benefitting from his peculiar attitude towards spending the public’s money. The account ebbs and flows, at times very active, at other times a statement of no activity filed.
One curious entry is the November 16, 2011 expenditure for $2,795.00 paid to Joseph Desmaret for wages. Desmaret is the former Spring Valley Deputy Mayor who pleaded guilty to bribery as part of the Corridor of Corruption sweep of elected officials.
The recent January 2015 periodic filing of ‘Leadership That’s Working’ showed a flurry of activity. The filing reported contributions of $35,266.00 taken in on September 29 and September 30, 2014. How coincidental that all this activity took place the day before and the day of the Ramapo Ward Referendum. And the donors, well, not the usual crowd. Shimmy’s Enterprise LLC II, with a post office box in Tallman, contributed $10,000.00 in two $5,000.00 installments on consecutive days; with two consecutively numbered checks. The LLC was formed on July 7, 2011. Ruzhin Corp. of Monroe kicked in $5,000.00. It was incorporated on August 6, 2007. Trodale Developers Inc. of Spring Valley, organized on May 25, 2011, generously gave $10,000.00. Then there is BE and YO Realty Inc. of Monroe and their $2,500.00 contribution. They were formed on November 5, 2008. What an interesting name to have chosen.
Other contributors at $1,000.00 a pop were Simcha 10 LLC, originating on September 13, 2012; Madira Framing Corp, incorporated on March 27, 2014; Monsey Affordable Homes, which came into existence on June 20, 2013, and Otap Oxford Holding Corp Q, formed April 20, 2004. Another $1,000.00 was provided by a Monsey religious school, Mosdos Sanz Klausenburg.
The lone contribution that was not reported in that two day span was a $4,000.00 donation on October 30, 2014 from Elm Street Condos LLC, October 24, 2011 its date of birth. Except for Otap Oxford, none of the other entities have any record of making any other donations, a characteristic similar to the contributions made to the campaigns of Ilan Schoenberger in 2013 for Rockland County Executive and Sherri Eisenpress in 2011 for Rockland County Family Court Judge.
Where did all that money go?
Well Rockland Printing received $15,000.00 reported on September 30, 2014, plus an additional $5,000.00 in mid November. Friends of Christopher St. Lawrence received $12,000.00 reported on October 1, 2014. Nathan Oberman is the Treasurer of that account. He is also the Treasurer of the Ramapo Democratic Committee. Another $7,375.00 went to Audio Services of Middletown, New York, October 2, 2014 the reported date.
Friends of Christopher St. Lawrence was also active during the period. The account’s January 2015 periodic statement reflected a $20,000.00 contribution reported September 24, 2014 to 63 is Enough; the more appropriate name being 63 was a Bluff – the blatantly deceitful attempt to blame the high taxes of the Town of Ramapo on the collective remuneration of the number of elected officials throughout Ramapo. That flyer paled in comparison to the race-baiting flyer distributed around the same time signaling an end to society as we know it because many local village boards are all white and controlled by that infamous Republican bloc vote.
Also reported on September 29, 2014 was a $3,000.00 payment from the Ramapo Democratic Committee to Rockland Printing. The Ramapo Democratic Committee took in a grand total of $5,250.00 in 2014, $4,000.00 of that donated from the Friends of Christopher St. Lawrence in August of the same year.
Real leadership would be Chris St. Lawrence stepping forward and denouncing that flyer and exposing the cowards behind it. Real leadership would be letting the people decide a referendum and not taking sides. Real leadership would be refusing to allow your campaign finance account to be used to fund mailings that thwart the will of the people. The same questions of leadership are also asked of the Town Council members who flank St. Lawrence in the headline picture to this article.
Now we have the grand finale.
Several weeks ago the January 2015 periodic filing for ‘Leadership That’s Working’ reported a negative balance of $8,134.12. The filings showed that the account has been running negative since January of 2010. Not surprising that any account connected with Chris St. Lawrence would be in the red. Since the balance must reflect the balance on account at the bank it means their account would be overdrawn and most likely had been overdrawn for a preponderance of the last five years. The filings show no expenditure’s for overdraft fees or bank charges. That raises another question especially if the bank is charging their other customers. In the last week, however, the account magically transforms into a $6,221.88 positive balance, a $14,356.00 swing?
In July of 2014, the state began cracking down on accounts with negative balances. Conventional wisdom would say that Leadership just reached out to some of their sycophant donors and raised additional funds to bring the account positive and filed an off-cycle report reflecting same; but that is hardly what happened.
The July 2006 periodic filing mysteriously appears, adding an additional $1,996.00 to the account, the difference between contributions ($2,750.00) and expenditures ($754.00). The two contributions were $250.00 from Alden Wolfe P.C. and $2,500.00 from Engel for Congress – Primary.
Now fast forward to the July 2009 periodic filing. Expenses change from $22,657.28 to $18,657.28, a $4,000.00 positive change. Check number 153 to Dalzell Management for $4,048.56, reported on March 2, 2009, is now the same check number for $1,048.56. Schedule H, a transfer out of $1,000.00, has disappeared. Staying in 2009, the 11 day pre-general filing, which previously reported $360.00 in wages to a Tashana Burbick, dated September 23, 2009, now shows no record of the entry. That brings the changes to a plus $6,356.00.
In the 2011 pre-general filing, a $4,000.00 contribution from Friends of Christopher St. Lawrence replaces a transfer out from Friends of Christopher St. Lawrence for the same amount, thus completing the amendments with the $8,000.00 swing.
So let’s understand this.
For about a decade no one, particularly the Deputy Director of Finance, noticed any discrepancy. Maybe they confused the Leadership account with the town’s finances or those of the Ramapo Land Development Corporation? I do not know; but what I do know is that all these disclosures are Prima Facie, which means they are taken on face value and only investigated if a complaint is filed and if investigative resources are available or sufficiently aroused.
Revisionist accounting remains alive and well – and easy.