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Town denies Marine vet job as police officer, offers no explanation

Aug. 13, 2014 - 06:00AM   |  
Greg Lobato listens as people speak on his behalf Tuesday at a meeting of the Sleepy Hollow village board.
Greg Lobato listens as people speak on his behalf Tuesday at a meeting of the Sleepy Hollow village board. (Seth Harrison/The Journal News)
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The village Board of Trustees on Tuesday refused to reconsider its controversial decision to deny a decorated Marine a job as a village cop and rejected a new attempt to hire him.

With residents and veterans packing Village Hall in a push to hire retired Marine Corps Capt. Greg Lobato, the same four-member majority that denied him the job July 29 blocked a procedural move that would have allowed a new vote. It was a move that didn't sit well with critics, who contend the vote was a political shot at Lobato's sister, Republican Trustee Jennifer Lobato-Church.

"We want to demand an answer from that board, why they did this," said Frank Morganthaler, commander of the Westchester County detachment of the Marine Corps League, among about three dozen who called for the board to hire Lobato. "This is anti-veteran, it's anti-American. It's a slap in the face of every veteran in this country."

Lobato, 35, was one of two candidates for two open jobs on the Sleepy Hollow force. Two weeks ago, the board voted unanimously to hire Antonio Guzzo, a village native with strong credentials. But the board voted against hiring Lobato, with Mayor Ken Wray and Trustee Glenn Rosenbloom supporting his bid.

It was Rosenbloom who proposed a new vote, a motion that was seconded by Wray but voted down.

Trustees Bruce Campbell, Karin Wompa, Evelyn Stupel and Dorothy Handelman, who voted against the hire, also voted down the procedural change. None have offered an explanation.

Lobato-Church abstained.

The trustees maintained it was a confidential personnel matter.

A village native, Lobato commanded a military police platoon in Iraq, including during nearly nine months of heavy fighting in Fallujah. For action in combat, he earned the Marine Corps Commendation Medal with a Combat "V" device.

He returned to school and earned a master's of business administration degree from the City University of New York in 2010, and landed a job on Wall Street.

But Lobato wanted to be a cop in his hometown. He was No. 1 on the local civil service list and 11th out of nearly 3,000 candidates countywide, and had written endorsements from Police Chief Greg Camp and his lieutenants. The village department is also short-staffed Camp last night asked the board for additional help.

Lobato-Church, who has abstained from discussing her brother's bid for a job, addressed the board as a private citizen at Tuesday's meeting, questioning why he was turned down when the department needs help. Other residents said they just want answers.

"You're not professional politicians," said former Trustee Tom Capossela. "Everyone makes mistakes. Correct this one.... Make this right tonight."

Lobato has filed a state Freedom of Information request seeking records of any communication between the board members regarding his application, including emails and text messages. He also wrote to Village Attorney Janet Gandolfo, saying the village and the board "should anticipate litigation, if it has not already, arising out of the decision to reject my application for the position of police officer."

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