The Southold Town Police Department will likely come under scrutiny...

The Southold Town Police Department will likely come under scrutiny as a trial in the wrongful termination lawsuit filed by ex-probationary Officer Garrett Lake is expected to start Monday. Credit: John Roca

A trial is scheduled to start Monday in the wrongful termination case a former Southold probationary cop brought against the town claiming officials fired him after he arrested two politically connected people for alleged drunken driving.

Garrett Lake sued the town in 2016, claiming town officials retaliated against him for refusing to give special treatment to the friend of a town GOP leader and a Jamesport assistant fire chief after he arrested both in separate incidents.

Southold officials have denied allegations from Lake, 37, of Cutchogue, arguing they terminated his employment due to poor job performance involving “overzealous” tactics during vehicle stops, searches and arrests.

An appellate court reinstated Lake's lawsuit in 2020 after a Suffolk judge initially denied his petition to overturn the town's May 2016 termination decision.

The Brooklyn appellate court also ordered the town to turn over hours of in-car video recordings of traffic stops and arrests Lake made that the town said Police Chief Martin Flatley watched and found "legally problematic" — the reason cited for Lake's firing.

Those videos, along with performance reviews, are expected to become evidence in the nonjury Riverhead trial before Acting State Supreme Court Justice James Quinn.

Court filings show Lake’s attorney, Eric Bressler, will try to prove political pressures, not poor job performance, led to Lake’s firing four days before his probationary period would have ended.

“The evidence will show that Lake, during the course of his duties, made political enemies by properly doing his job,” Bressler wrote in a pretrial memo.

Lake wants reinstatement to the police force and back pay.

A police department evaluation Flatley approved about two months before Lake's firing, which is included in court documents, says Lake met and in some cases exceeded standards and also made "sound decisions" and "good arrests." 

Bressler declined to comment last week. An attorney at the outside law firm representing Southold in the case, Devitt Spellman Barrett, LLP, didn't return a request for comment Friday.

Lake, whom Suffolk County honored for aggressive DWI enforcement, maintains that one arrest in July 2015 and another in February 2016 led to his dismissal.

The first involved Steven Romeo, whom he arrested in July 2015 after Romeo's truck collided with a limousine in Cutchogue, killing four women who had been visiting wineries.

Lake alleged in his lawsuit Romeo was friends with John Helf Sr., then vice chairman of the Southold Town Republican Committee, and Helf tried to obstruct the investigation.

The other case involved the February 2016 arrest of David McKillop, a Jamesport assistant fire chief. Lake alleged Jamesport fire commissioners were “unhappy” and asserted "improper" political pressure on the police department as it handled the case. 

A trial witness list shows at least 14 people could testify, including Flatley and former Southold Republican council member Christopher Talbot.

Talbot said in a 2017 affidavit there is “no doubt” political pressure led to Lake’s firing.

Town Supervisor Scott Russell said in an interview he's looking forward to the case's conclusion.

"We have no doubt that we’re going to prevail," he added.

A trial is scheduled to start Monday in the wrongful termination case a former Southold probationary cop brought against the town claiming officials fired him after he arrested two politically connected people for alleged drunken driving.

Garrett Lake sued the town in 2016, claiming town officials retaliated against him for refusing to give special treatment to the friend of a town GOP leader and a Jamesport assistant fire chief after he arrested both in separate incidents.

Southold officials have denied allegations from Lake, 37, of Cutchogue, arguing they terminated his employment due to poor job performance involving “overzealous” tactics during vehicle stops, searches and arrests.

An appellate court reinstated Lake's lawsuit in 2020 after a Suffolk judge initially denied his petition to overturn the town's May 2016 termination decision.

The Brooklyn appellate court also ordered the town to turn over hours of in-car video recordings of traffic stops and arrests Lake made that the town said Police Chief Martin Flatley watched and found "legally problematic" — the reason cited for Lake's firing.

Those videos, along with performance reviews, are expected to become evidence in the nonjury Riverhead trial before Acting State Supreme Court Justice James Quinn.

Court filings show Lake’s attorney, Eric Bressler, will try to prove political pressures, not poor job performance, led to Lake’s firing four days before his probationary period would have ended.

“The evidence will show that Lake, during the course of his duties, made political enemies by properly doing his job,” Bressler wrote in a pretrial memo.

Lake wants reinstatement to the police force and back pay.

A police department evaluation Flatley approved about two months before Lake's firing, which is included in court documents, says Lake met and in some cases exceeded standards and also made "sound decisions" and "good arrests." 

Bressler declined to comment last week. An attorney at the outside law firm representing Southold in the case, Devitt Spellman Barrett, LLP, didn't return a request for comment Friday.

Lake, whom Suffolk County honored for aggressive DWI enforcement, maintains that one arrest in July 2015 and another in February 2016 led to his dismissal.

The first involved Steven Romeo, whom he arrested in July 2015 after Romeo's truck collided with a limousine in Cutchogue, killing four women who had been visiting wineries.

Lake alleged in his lawsuit Romeo was friends with John Helf Sr., then vice chairman of the Southold Town Republican Committee, and Helf tried to obstruct the investigation.

The other case involved the February 2016 arrest of David McKillop, a Jamesport assistant fire chief. Lake alleged Jamesport fire commissioners were “unhappy” and asserted "improper" political pressure on the police department as it handled the case. 

A trial witness list shows at least 14 people could testify, including Flatley and former Southold Republican council member Christopher Talbot.

Talbot said in a 2017 affidavit there is “no doubt” political pressure led to Lake’s firing.

Town Supervisor Scott Russell said in an interview he's looking forward to the case's conclusion.

"We have no doubt that we’re going to prevail," he added.

From new rides at Adventureland to Long Island's best seafood restaurants to must-see summer concerts, here's your inside look at Newsday's summer Fun Book. Credit: Newsday Staff

Elisa DiStefano kick-starts summer with the Fun Book show From new rides at Adventureland to Long Island's best seafood restaurants to must-see summer concerts, here's your inside look at Newsday's summer Fun Book.

From new rides at Adventureland to Long Island's best seafood restaurants to must-see summer concerts, here's your inside look at Newsday's summer Fun Book. Credit: Newsday Staff

Elisa DiStefano kick-starts summer with the Fun Book show From new rides at Adventureland to Long Island's best seafood restaurants to must-see summer concerts, here's your inside look at Newsday's summer Fun Book.

Latest videos

SUBSCRIBE

Unlimited Digital AccessOnly 25¢for 5 months

ACT NOWSALE ENDS SOON | CANCEL ANYTIME