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Bloomingburg challenged voters undecided

Developer Shalom Lamm unveiled the new $5 million waste treatment plant built for the Village Bloomingburg on a tour on March 13. He wanted to get his message out that his company paid for it entirely and that everyone in the village would benefit. That message was overwhelmed the next day when dozens of FBI agents swarmed the village the next day, serving search warrants on buildings owned be Lamm.
TRR photo by Fritz Mayer

By Fritz Mayer
March 14, 2014

BLOOMINGBURG, NY — More than 200 newly registered voters in the Village of Bloomingburg have been formally challenged, and on March 13, dozens of FBI agents moved into the village to serve search warrants on buildings owned by developer Shalom Lamm. Village residents believe the investigation is related to allegations that many of the new voters have listed their addresses as buildings that Lamm owns, but they don’t really live there.

No one in an official capacity would confirm that is the focus of the FBI investigation, and no one from the Sullivan County Board of Elections (BOE) could comment on whether the FBI investigation had any impact on the status of the challenged voters. Both election commissioners, Rodney Gaebel and Ann Prusinski, said they had been told not to comment on the matter. Prusinksi did say a determination on the question of the challenged voters would not be made before the election on March 18.

It was generally believed before the election that if the votes of challenged voters are counted, the benefit would go to Mark Berentsen, who is a supporter of Lamm and who is the subject of a lawsuit to kick him out of office for the way he benefitted from Lamm’s 396-unit development, Villages at Chestnut Ridge.

If the challenged voters are blocked, it was believed that would benefit Berentsen’s opponent, Frank Gerardi, who is opposed to the development, and is running on the Rural Heritage Party (RHP) line.

The FBI confirmed that the searches were related to an investigation, but would not provide further details. Teek Persaud, who is a member of the board of the Rural Community Coalition, said that many village residents were pleased that the FBI appeared to be taking action as dozens of FBI agents and vehicles filtered through the town. Persaud said he considered this a win in the ongoing battle against the developer.

Joel Cohen, a lawyer for Lamm’s company Black Creek, told reporters that they were confident that ultimately the FBI would find no wrongdoing on Lamm’s part.

The sewer connection

Regardless of the findings concerning the challenged voters, events on the ground are moving forward, with Lamm continuing to make progress on his development and related projects. On the day before the raids, Lamm invited reporters to his office in Bloomingburg to unveil the new village sewage facility his company paid for.