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Sunday, June 22, 2008

Ex-detective sues Mamaroneck village

The Journal News by Aman Ali - June 20, 2008

MAMARONECK - A former detective once accused of stealing over $23,000 from a police evidence locker fired back yesterday with a federal lawsuit against the village. Joseph Comblo claims his reputation has been damaged by the police disciplinary charges, which were dropped last week. "He was getting ready to retire and this was an attempt to scapegoat him," his attorney, Jonathan Lovett, said. "They thought, albeit stupidly, that he'd ride off into the sunset doing nothing about this." The lawsuit names Police Chief Edward Flynn, police spokesman Lt. James Gaffney, Mayor Kathy Savolt and Trustees Tom Murphy, Toni Ryan, John Hofstetter and Randi Robinowitz. Lovett said Comblo is seeking punitive damages set by a jury. In March, Comblo was accused of stealing $23,383 from a police evidence locker - the week he was submitting his papers for retirement. Comblo had served the police department for 25 years and built a strong reputation among his colleagues. "I really didn't expect this to happen," Comblo said of the accusation. Savolt said the disciplinary charges against Comblo were dropped last week on procedural grounds. She said the department did not have the legal standing to pursue a case against the former detective, based on the timing of his retirement. Savolt yesterday declined to comment on the lawsuit Comblo filed because the village had not yet read the filing.

The village has spent millions of taxpayer dollars on lawsuits in recent years. This is the first major lawsuit against the village since Savolt took office in December. "I learned anybody can sue anybody about anything at any time," Savolt said. "That's their right in the democracy we call America." Savolt and the board trustees were listed in the lawsuit for their role as the Board of Police Commissioners that would have overseen Comblo's now cancelled disciplinary hearing. Details about Comblo's charges were obtained by the Journal News in March, and Savolt said the village will conduct an investigation as to who may have provided that information. "We have to find out why this stuff is going on," she said. The unsolved question still remains of who stole the $23,383. Police officials declined to comment on whether the department was still investigating the theft. Lovett claims he has figured out who took the money and said he will reveal it over the course of the lawsuit.

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