Ramapo, NY recently made the news when a federal jury convicted Christopher St. Lawrence, the former town supervisor, of 20 corruption-related charges of security and wire fraud. The man now faces 20 years in prison.
What makes this so encouraging is that Mr. Lawrence wasn't accused of stealing for personal profit. Instead, he was charged with cooking the municipal books to fund a pet project, namely building a minor league stadium after town residents voted 67 percent against it in 2010.
In the wake of the financial meltdown, the Securities and Exchange Commission established a new unit to look into such municipal misconduct. The conviction of St. Lawrence is part of that effort and is the first one entailing criminal charges.
As Steve Malanga of the Manhattan Institute writes in the June 16 Wall Street Journal, "Municipal budgeting is littered with misrepresentations meant to raise money for favored projects, increase spending during election years, or rewarding political supporters with rich contracts."
There's no telling how much taxpayer money is so squandered by municipal officials and school administrators using deceitful accounting to justify their boondoggles. Remember, it matters not to taxpayers if their money was outright stolen my a local official or if it was merely wasted. It's still gone.
Hopefully, concerned citizens can report dubious expenditures to the SEC for investigation and prosecution when warranted.
Peter Skurkiss, Stow