The Village of Sleepy Hollow received a claim that specifically listed Trustees Schroedel, Caposella, Wompa and Wray. Claims are precursors to actual litigation.
The attorney for claimant Frank J. Morabito of Morabito Electric Inc. submitted a detailed four-page document citing the reasons Mr. Morabito is seeking "compensatory damages in the amount of $1,000,000 and punitive damages against the individual Thomas Capossella." Morabito had been contracted by the Village to perform electrical code enforcement services and other work.
The Village of Sleepy Hollow and Trustees Thomas Caposella, David Schroedel, Ken Wray and Karen Wompa are said to have "negligently, recklessly and intentionally harmed Frank J. Morabito in his personal and business activities by wrongfully defaming and accusing Frank J. Morabito of violating local laws and otherwise violating the zoning and building codes of the Village of Sleepy Hollow." The claim submitted by Morabito’s attorney, Jonathan Rice of Dobbs Ferry, noted that on July 8, Thomas Caposella was advised at a Village Board meeting that the Village’s Ethics Code did not apply to Morabito who was an independent contractor and not an employee of Sleepy Hollow. Regardless, Trustees Caposella, Schroedel, Wray and Wompa persisted in stating that Morabito was in violation of the Ethics Code and "had conducted himself in a dishonorable and illegal manner…"
In addition, the document states that Trustee Caposella made defamatory statements about Morabito with the intent of removing him as a code enforcer and from doing other work within the Village. The claim contends that Caposella did so because he wanted to advocate hiring Frank Occhipinti for the code enforcement contract. On page four the claim stated, "Upon information and belief, Mr. Occhipinti is a personal friend and acquaintance of Trustee Caposella and his own advocacy for Mr. Occhipinti is improper." Caposella is also mentioned as having published false and malicious statements that Morabito was in arrears on his property taxes or that he did not pay taxes on his property.
The claim stated that Trustees Schroedel, Wray and Wompa are jointly liable by having "ratified" and adopted the defamatory comments of Caposella and that all of the four Trustees ignored the law and their own legal counsel. The four, being a majority on Sleepy Hollow’s Village Board, also, "Ignored the request of the Mayor and members of the Board to refer the matter to the Ethics Board and thereby compounded the illegal and improper conduct that has harmed the claimant [Morabito] and otherwise deprived him of his contractual, constitutional and other legal rights under all applicable laws, rules and regulations."
Regarding the termination of Frank Morabito’s contract, the Village recently received a petition to reinstate him. The petition had 663 signatures affixed to it and said in part that, "The recent action by the majority of the Trustees terminating Frank Morabito from this important role [Code Enforcement Officer] was just plain wrong and has damaged the progress made in enforcing the building codes of Sleepy Hollow."