NY corruption: Spring Valley Deputy Mayor Joseph A. Desmaret to face departmental charges in Ramapo; pay suspended
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Spring Valley Deputy Mayor Joseph A. Desmaret is now facing repercussions from his federal arrest on bribery charges earlier this year, as the Town of Ramapo -- where he works as a clerk -- charged him Thursday with misconduct and suspended his salary.
Desmaret had been on paid suspension since he was arrested on bribery charges in early April.
The departmental charges -- which do not allege any wrongdoing related to Desmaret's work for Ramapo, but rather focus exclusively on the federal charges -- could end up costing Desmaret his job, Ramapo Town Attorney Michael Klein told Newsday.
The federal charges allege that Desmaret conspired with Spring Valley Mayor Noramie Jasmin to accept bribes in return for advancing a real estate development scheme in Spring Valley. Ramapo authorities conducted their own investigation into the federal charges against Desmaret and discussed the charges with him, Klein said.
"We're not privy to what the federal authorities have. Their evidence is not available to us," Klein explained. "So our investigation included whatever public information is available as well as interviews with the employee."
The five-member town board will ultimately decide whether to further Desmaret's suspension or terminate his employment, Klein said. The board is headed by Ramapo Supervisor Christopher St. Lawrence. The Local Development Corporation headed by St. Lawrence and its involvement in the financing of Provident Bank Park -- home to the Rockland Boulders baseball team -- is itself the subject of a continuing federal investigation.
"What happens is the administrative hearing officer will make a written recommendation to the board as to whether there's sufficient findings of misconduct and if so, a recommended punishment," Klein said. "Then the board would make an independent determination ultimately what to do."
A hearing on the departmental charges against Desmaret is set for July 1. It will be private, unless Demsaret, 55, chooses to open it up to the public.
Desmaret was placed on paid suspension just hours after his arrest on April 2. He -- along with Jasmin and four New York City politicians who were also arrested -- have all since pleaded not guilty to an array of corruption charges.
In that case, Desmaret allegedly accepted bribes amounting to $10,500 from cooperating witnesses who were discussing with him the development of a new community center in Spring Valley. In exchange, he is alleged to have agreed to use his influence to line up $500,000 in state transportation money to improve roads in front of the community center.
Desmaret, who makes $25,750 a year as deputy mayor in Spring Valley, has held onto his elected seat and has rejected calls to step down.
An attorney for the Civil Service Employees of America -- the largest union in Rockland County -- will be representing Desmaret during the hearing on the department charges. Jessica Ladlee, a CSEA spokeswoman, declined to comment on the matter.
Kenneth Gribetz, Desmaret's attorney in the federal case, said Desmaret has indicated to him that he will be fighting for a dismissal of the departmental charges in Ramapo.
"The allegations have nothing to do with his job in Ramapo," Gribetz said. "Anything that's contained in the indictment does not refer to his town employment or anything he's done as a town employee."
Desmaret did not return requests for comment.