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Police officer denied in request for reinstatement

A former Southold Town police officer’s motion to reconsider a petition against the town for reinstatement to his job has been denied, according to court records. 

Garrett Lake, who claimed he was fired in bad faith due to political pressure, had argued that the court erred in dismissing his petition last year. But New York State Supreme Court Justice William Ford found Lake “has failed to sustain his burden of demonstrating how the court has misapprehended or overlooked key, material or relevant points of law or facts and evidence,” according to the decision filed earlier this month. 

Justice Ford had denied an Article 78 proceeding Mr. Lake filed in 2016. Mr. Lake, who was a probationary police officer, had sought reinstatement of his employment. 

Mr. Lake had argued he was fired due to his involvement in two high-profile arrests he made. One was a drunken driving arrest in the fatal 2015 limousine crash in Cutchogue. The other was the DWI arrest of a Jamesport Fire Department chief. Mr. Lake had been honored with a Suffolk County proclamation for making the department’s highest number of drunken-driving arrests in 2015. 

Mr. Lake alleged that the incidents infuriated local Republicans, who he claimed exercised undue political influence on the police department and Southold Town Board to advocate for his dismissal, according to the suit. 

Mr. Lake also argued that police Chief Martin Flatley and Captain Frank Kruszeski admitted to him at separate times that political pressure was a factor in his dismissal. 

In July 2017, Justice Ford wrote in a final disposition that the firing of Mr. Lake was “reasonable and rational.” In an affidavit, Southold Town Police Chief Martin Flatley said the department received civilian complaints that Mr. Lake was “overaggressive and overzealous,” according to court documents. 

Mr. Lake also submitted an affidavit from former Southold Town Board member Chris Talbot, who testified that he had overheard negative comments made by John Helf, deputy chairman of the Southold Town Republican Committee, over the arrest in the limo case. Mr. Talbot also testified that Mr. Helf had a desire to see Mr. Lake’s employment terminated, according to Justice Ford’s summary of the case.  

The town responded to Mr. Lake’s motion to reconsider the court’s initial decision, arguing that the motion to reargue the Article 78 proceeding was not timely and that the court was correct in its earlier denial. 

When asked for a comment this week, Town Supervisor Scott Russell said in an email: “I hope this brings the matter to a close. It was unfortunate for everyone.”

Mr. Lake’s attorney, Eric Bressler of Mattituck, did not respond to a request for comment Monday.

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File courtesy photo: From left, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, Southold Town police officer Garrett Lake and police chief Martin Flatley during the 2016 awards ceremony.