Spring Valley Mayor Noramie Jasmin and Deputy Mayor Joseph A. Desmaret will both stay in their elected seats while federal officials investigate them on corruption charges -- and the resulting attorneys' fees the village will have to absorb as a result.
In the first Spring Valley Village Board meeting since Jasmin and Desmaret were arrested last week in a broad-reaching corruption scandal, trustees fumed over the pair's decision to remain in office and over the cost to taxpayers for legal fees resulting from the bribery charges.
Trustees Anthony Leon and Demeza Delhomme both called for Jasmin's and Desmaret's resignations.
"The law gives them the [ability] to sit on the board regardless," Leon said. "However, I know some of you are very angry; me too. I'm very angry [with them] sitting in that table."
The two are accused of trading their votes and using their influence over fellow board members in Spring Valley to win approval for a wealthy developer's plan to build a community center on village land.
What Jasmin and Desmaret didn't know was that the developer, Moses Stern, was working for the FBI, hoping to reduce the time he will spend in prison, having been caught up in a mortgage fraud scam some years before. When he arrived at the October 2012 meeting in which village trustees voted 4-1 in favor of the community center project, he was accompanied by undercover FBI agents posing as his associates.
'I WILL STAY ON'
On Tuesday, Desmaret smiled and Jasmin stared straight ahead while their colleagues asked them to resign.
"It's not your prerogative to tell me or the mayor to step down," Desmaret said. "I've been elected by the people. There's an investigation going on. Until they get all the filings, I will stay in office."
Jasmin, urging trustees to move off the subject, cited her attorney's advice to not discuss her current legal matters.
However, Leon demanded she state whether or not she plans to remain in office.
"Yes, I will stay on," Jasmin said.
The meeting deteriorated from there, with trustees flinging accusations at Jasmin and Desmaret and a board member fleeing the meeting before its official end.
Trustee Demeza Delhomme said the budget process will be halted until costs to pay for two $200-an-hour law firms who will represent the village as it is forced to cough up documents to the FBI can be determined. Delhemme suggested that a tax increase might be necessary to pay the lawyers, while Jasmin and Desmaret defended their record of keeping village taxes low.
But Leon, not convinced that the village can pass a budget with a zero percent tax increase, called for an end to the "lying."
"You've been asking money for your vote, you think people can trust you here? I don't trust any one of you here," Leon said. "You've been bribing, you've been frauding, corrpution... I feel insulted. I don't care if you're a good person, (if) you're good people; the village is insulted."
LEGAL FEES TO VILLAGE
Before storming out of the room about 36 minutes into the hour-long meeting, Leon slammed his chair down and yelled, "I'm getting tired of this (expletive) now."
Since Leon had left the meeting, Delhomme reached him by cell phone and put it on speakerphone to allow him to cast his vote to pass the resolution to pay for the legal fees.
The vote passed with three votes -- Leon, Delhomme and Trustee Joseph Gross voting yes -- as Jasmin and Desmaret recused themselves.
The two law firms, Sokoloff & Stern, LLP specializing in civil federal litigation and Burke Miele & Golden, LLP specializing in criminal federal litigation firm, will handle the "volume of material" subpoenaed by the FBI.
The firms will also assist with any legal representation needed for village employees other than Jasmin and Desmaret, in case they are called to appear at any proceedings.