Exclusive: Scathing letter from officials demand explanation into 'discrepancies' in Spring Valley's record keeping amid fatal fire
News 12 has discovered new information that reveals the state is coming down hard on Spring Valley's mayor about the fatal fire at the Evergreen Court assisted living center - saying there are serious “discrepancies” in the village’s record-keeping.
Our Tara Rosenblum has obtained a scathing letter that New York state officials sent to Spring Valley Mayor Alan Simon, asking him to explain why the village said the assisted living center was inspected in April 2019 when there are no building inspection records from the past three years.
Several sources have been telling News 12 for months that lax code enforcement has plagued Evergreen Court.
Rosenblum used the Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) to obtain a copy of the letter sent to Simon from the director of the State Division of Building Standards and Codes back on April 30.
It was just one month after the blaze killed a volunteer firefighter and an elderly resident at Evergreen Court.
The letter reveals in November 2019, the village acknowledged Evergreen was overdue on its annual inspection, but said an inspection was scheduled.
One year later, the village filed a report the job was completed, and that there were no longer any "outstanding" inspections required in the village.
In March 2021, it even followed up with a verbal assurance to state leaders the inspection was done in April 2019, but the state said, “there are no substantiating records of inspection of the building in the past three years.”
Two months later, two Spring Valley village workers were charged in a sweeping criminal probe connected to the deadly fire, launched by the Rockland County District Attorney.
Chief building inspector Wayne Ballard and assistant building inspector Raymond Canario are both facing three years in prison, accused of filing false paperwork with the state. Our data investigation also revealed that Canario has yet to pass the state required civil service exam to hold the job, while others in the department hold jobs they are not licensed for.
Rosenblum went in person Wednesday to the mayor’s office looking for answers, but no one was available for comment. Multiple sources say both Ballard and Canario are on the job and being paid as the investigation plays out, but no one would confirm or deny that.
The state demanded the village respond to the letter with an action plan on how to ensure the “future integrity of its recordkeeping system." It is unclear if that letter was ever filed.
Fire safety advocates tell News 12 there is plenty of blame to go around. Some question how this could have happened, as the state-appointed monitor has been overseeing the village’s Building Department since 2016.