14 Sagamore Avenue
Suffern, New York 10901
Mr. Andrew E. Krause
Assistant U.S. Attorney
86 Chambers Street 3rd Floor
New York, New York 10007
Re: United States of America vs. Town of Ramapo, New York – 7:2014cv01888 Consent Decree 14 Civ. 1888 (NSR) Public comment period response
Dear Mr. Krause:
This letter is in response to the public comment period in respect to the above referenced matter.
Your office has previously received communications questioning why, in a circuitous manner, the taxpayers of the Town of Ramapo must foot the bill for the actions of a small group of individuals who violated certain provisions of the Clean Water Act (CWA). The government’s complaint specifically states that the town exhibited a specific disregard for its environmental obligation and that absent relief; the town is likely to continue to violate the CWA.
The latter statement is extremely disturbing. In furtherance of the taxpayers concern, for a variety of reasons the Town of Ramapo has a large tax-exempt property base, thus shifting the burden unfairly to a smaller portion of taxpayers. This event is simply not a case of local government making a dumb economic decision, to wit, the construction of a ballpark, which this matter centers on.
Moreover, having experience with the Bank Secrecy Act and having recently served as an elected official in Suffern, the public has grown weary of CEO’s and elected officials getting off the hook via monetary settlements because it is simply the easiest row to hoe. I cannot think of many more deleterious actions then violating the CWA.
While municipalities are defined as “persons” under the CWA, municipalities, corporations and LLC’s are entities, with every decision made by real persons who often do not pay a nickel from their own pocket for their actions. The federal government is the last line of defense against local governments that fail to have the mechanisms in place to prevent one individual or a small cabal of individuals from violating the will of the people and the law. Until such time that the decision makers are held accountable, these situations will continue to plague local government. In this particular case, those responsible become no more then third-party observers to their own actions.
The town electorate voted the ballpark financing down, which most reasonable people would conclude to interpret that no funds would be allocated in any capacity; but the town paid for the infrastructure, in the process violating the CWA. The Ramapo Town Supervisor, Ramapo Land Development Corporation (RLDC) President, and individual signing the consent decree, Christopher St. Lawrence, are one in the same.
It is the ultimate conflict of interest, once again the public fooled. If the town and the RLDC maintain that this is a joint project it seems too convenient to simply shift the blame to the party that stands the least to lose. While not in the courts purview, an explanation from the town as to why they have not pursed those directly responsible for the violation should be forthcoming.
While the cost for cleanup is unavoidable, I would ask the court to consider that the United States of America pursue alternative remedies in lieu of a fine solely against the municipality, a fine which benefits the people of the United States, but not the people of Ramapo.