Stewart Ain’s front-page article, “Bloomingburg Tensions Now Affecting Government” (May 22), about the conflict raging in the village of Bloomingburg, in Mamakating Township, Sullivan County, New York, provided some, but not all of the scandalous story roiling this unassuming rural community. For nearly a decade, corruption and cronyism have pervaded both the village and town governments, facilitating inappropriate and irresponsible development that threatens to ruin our rural character and harm our natural resources.
As a resident of Mamakating for more than a decade, I have borne witness to inept, corrupt local government and have been involved in the struggle to replace it. I am grateful that Mamakating has at long last elected a team that is committed to and is succeeding in bringing accountability and transparency to our local government. At the same time it is both disheartening and enraging for unscrupulous developers to be hurling scurrilous and unfounded accusations of anti-Semitism as cover for their alleged illegal activities.
Mamakating Town government, led by our Town Supervisor Bill Herrmann, has filed a Racketeer-Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (R.I.C.O.) complaint in federal court (http://tinyurl.com/p9tg2ef) accusing several individuals and entities, including real estate developer Shalom Lamm, with, “…act[ing] to promote the goals of the racketeering enterprise by defrauding, controlling, and seeking to take over the government of the Town of Mamakating and the Village of Bloomingburg.”
The complaint reads like a crime story, laying out in great detail how for almost a decade a complicated web of fraudulent and criminal activities were perpetrated that first deceived, then co-opted local officials and governmental institutions into granting illegal zoning changes and approvals of a high-density cluster-housing development that was not permitted under existing zoning laws and violated our Master Plan. According to the complaint, Lamm engaged a local developer as a front man, who portrayed the development as a 125-unit, upscale community with a golf course, providing assurances that there would be little impact on local resources or schools, while giving a much-needed boost to our local economy. The complaint provides compelling evidence that local officials were bribed into abandoning the luxury development and in its place approving the 396-unit housing project.
According to the complaint, Lamm and his co-conspirators organized fraudulent voter registrations of people who do not actually reside in Bloomingburg with the intent to overwhelm the legitimate voting pool. They used altered documents, bogus form leases, and letters from purported residents that lacked signatures, enabling them to vote on more than one occasion, including in the March 2014 election for Bloomingburg mayor and two trustees.
Outraged local residents mobilized, submitting official voter registration challenges, upheld by the Sullivan County Board of Elections, which determined that the vast majority were ineligible to vote in either election. Despite these findings, these individuals were inexplicably allowed to vote. Unbelievably, the same thing happened again in March of this year, when an individual gained a seat on Bloomingburg’s board only after the votes cast by individuals, who the county Board of Elections had declared ineligible, were counted. That questionably elected trustee, Aaron Rabiner, aka Aron Rabiner, was unwilling to answer questions about where he lives or even how he spells his name when he was sworn in as the Village’s newest trustee.
What is truly scandalous is that no one has been held accountable for this voter fraud. Our Sullivan County District Attorney, James Farrell, who witnessed court proceedings that suggested voter fraud, has failed to take any action, even after three elections in which individuals deemed ineligible to vote were nonetheless flagrantly allowed to do so. Mr. Herrmann has asked Attorney General, Eric Schneiderman to investigate.
As a long-term Mamakating resident and voter, I am grateful that we finally are seeing media attention to the years of corruption, bribery and voter fraud that my community has endured –and their alleged role in the creation of the Villages of Chestnut Ridge as described in the complaint. But it is imperative that the entire truth be told, not simply part of it.
Anita Altman is a resident of the Town of Mamakating, New York.