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Caucus Selects Candidates Amid Protests

SLEEPY HOLLOW, N.Y. – A small group of registered Democrats nominated three trustee candidates for the upcoming March elections amid allegations of an unfair caucus process at the Sleepy Hollow Senior Center on Saturday.

Newcomers Susan MacFarlane and Jennifer Lobato-Church will be running alongside incumbent Karin Wompa on the Democratic ticket for the Sleepy Hollow Board of Trustees. Elections will take place on March 20. Three candidates in the Sleepy Hollow Independent Party have also announced they will be running for the open seats.

Police were called to the caucus after a group of about 30 citizens came to the caucus and found that it had already been closed about a minute after MacFarlane, Lobato-Church and Wompa were nominated.

Village Attorney Janet Gandolfo, the Democratic Party chair, refused to let the group sign-in at the caucus because they had arrived after it had been officially closed. One resident, Frank Occhipinto, began yelling at Gandolfo and police when he couldn't sign-in.

“I can't believe you let her get away with that!” he said. “You got to let everybody sign! We want to sign! You can't do that!”

Sleepy Hollow resident Chris Caetano later said he felt the caucus was “absurd, outrageous and a miscarriage of justice.” Caetano's father Donald had hoped to be nominated at the caucus and said he would be following up with Westchester County officials to see what might be done.

“I am for the people of the community and I would love to be a trustee for this village,” Donald Caetano said.

Mayor Ken Wray said he felt the Democrats had “a really strong slate” of candidates.

“We have folks that are going to have the village itself and the interest of the village at heart,” he said.

Wompa is running for her third term on the board. She has living in Sleepy Hollow since 1995. McFarlane has lived in Sleepy Hollow for six years, founding the “Friends of Horan's Landing” park organization. Lobato-Church, a registered Republican, is a Sleepy Hollow native who moved back to the village in 2006. She is currently the chair of the Police Advisory Committee.

Wompa says the group is running to “continue the momentum that we built up the last four years.” Lobato-Church agreed, saying she wanted to “continue the forward progress that the current administration has made.”

Wray said he didn't think closing the caucus after a minute was a problem because it had been well publicized. He described it as someone who wanted to vote the day after an election.

“It's a meeting that was well-advertised, obviously," he said. "People had the opportunity to be there and be on time. And they weren't,” he said.

Wray said that this year's caucus was run the same way it had been done at previous caucuses. Wray also noted that people who wanted to run for a village office had the opportunity to run as an independent.

Trustee Bruce Campbell said the real story of the meeting was that three candidates had been selected.

“We're very sorry, but really the story is that we have a slate of candidates who will lead the village forward.”

Sleepy Hollow resident Fernando Betancis came to the meeting at 4:01 p.m. and didn't get to participate. He said he “just wanted to get a chance to have a say.”

“They just wanted to make their own mind and put whoever they want.”

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