Notable Stories of 2017

Carmel Police Chief Mike Cazzari answers questions at a press conference during the murder investigation. Credits: Bob Dumas
In March, homeowners showed up in droves at the Town Hall to protest the revaluation project. Credits: Bob Dumas
An aerial view of where the town would like to build a park (circled in red) along Route 6N Credits: File

MAHOPAC, N.Y.-Another year has come and gone in Mahopac and it’s time to look back on 2017 and recap the most noteworthy stories of the past 12 months. Being memorable doesn’t necessarily mean a joyous occasion; this past year did have some heartbreaking moments. However, it was also a year of new ideas, and a year of change. So, in no particular order, here are the Top 10 notable stories from 2017:

Mahopac woman murdered in home

Mahopac was stunned when a 75-year-old woman was found murdered in her home on April 27. Police Chief Mike Cazzari said first responders discovered the body of Perla Gatchalian in her residence after they were called by a family member.

Sign Up for E-News

Police said during the course of the investigation they developed leads that brought them to the Westchester County hamlet of West Harrison where they determined that Gatchalian was killed by her daughter’s 69-year-old father-in-law, Filippo Buffone. Cazzari said that family finances were the motive for the homicide. Buffone took his own life five days later in the parking lot of a business near his home.

Klein gets six years-plus for FD embezzlement

Michael Klein, the former Mahopac Volunteer Fire Department (MVFD) treasurer who stole more than $5.7 million from the department’s treasury, pleaded guilty in March and was later sentenced in U.S. District Court to serve 77 months in federal prison.

Klein pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud; six counts of subscribing to false tax returns; one count of obstructing the grand jury’s investigation; and one count of making false statements to the United States attorney. District Court Judge Cathy Seibel ordered Klein to forfeit $5,675,360 in ill-gotten gains, as well as various assets, including his residence in Palm City, Fla.

Chamber CEO charged with larceny

In March, Erin Meagher, the CEO/executive director of the Greater Mahopac/Carmel Chamber of Commerce was charged with felony fourth-degree grand larceny for using a chamber debit card for personal purchases and then altering receipts to disguise the transactions.

Meagher initially contended the charges were part of a smear tactic due to her political affiliation and her youth and she said would be vindicated. However, in June she pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of misdemeanor petit larceny, admitting in an allocution statement that she used the debit card for unauthorized personal purchases that amounted to nearly $3,000. She was sentenced to probation and ordered to make restitution.

Property revaluation causes revolt

The town of Carmel completed its first townwide property revaluation in 20 years and the results left some homeowners stunned and angry when they saw their tax bills more than double. Throughout the month of March, the Town Hall meeting room overflowed with angry residents who came to protest what they considered an untenable hike in their taxes as a result of the revaluation.

However, despite the revolt, the new assessments were added to the tax rolls in April and property owners took the established methods available to have them lowered.

School chief’s contract not renewed

In July, Mahopac School Superintendent Dr. Dennis Creedon announced that he would step down from his post at the end of the 2017-18 school year after the Board of Education opted not to renew his contract.

Creedon signed a three-year deal in 2015, and will complete the terms of that agreement. Asked whether a contract extension had ever been discussed with the school board, he said, “It was discussed, but I don’t want to go into that.”

The school board completed its search for a new superintendent in December and will introduce the person after the first of the year.

Beloved middle school principal resigns

MMS principal Vince DiGrandi resigned his post in July to become principal at North Salem’s combined middle school/high school.

The move shocked the community and left district officials scrambling to find a replacement. DiGrandi was a Mahopac native and a graduate of the MHS Class of 1989. He came to the Mahopac School District in 2013 after serving as principal of Fishkill Plains Elementary School in Dutchess County. He said he took the North Salem job because he thought it was the best thing for his career and his family.

In August, Carmel High School graduate Tom Cozzocrea was hired to take DiGrandi’s place.

Plans for new community center completed

With all the necessary permits secured, a plan to build a $10 million community center at Sycamore Park was turned over to the Town Board in November, which now must figure out how to pay for it.

The project includes an 18,000-square-foot community center building; a 15,000-square-foot maintenance building; new parking facilities; improved entrances and exits and improved stormwater systems. Town officials say all the necessary permits have been secured—they just need to decide how to fund the project.

Barile, McDonough win Town Board election

Newcomer Michael Barile and incumbent Suzi McDonough were elected to the Carmel Town Board on Nov. 7.

Barile was the top vote-getter with 5,118 votes (37.3 percent). McDonough garnered 4,583 votes (33.4 percent). Democratic challenger Judie Mirra finished a distant third with 2,567 votes (18.7 percent).

McDonough had not received the GOP nomination but got on the primary ballot by garnering enough names on a petition and ended up winning and earning a GOP slot in the general election. Incumbent Councilman Frank Lombardi, who received the GOP nomination at the party caucus, lost the primary to McDonough, but ran on the Independence and Reform party lines in the general election. He finished fourth with 1,402 votes (10.2 percent).

Town buys land for new park

In November, the Town Board took the first step to begin a project that will create a new lakefront park, along with municipal parking in the Mahopac business district on Lake Mahopac on Route 6N.

The board agreed to a deal with developer Frank Cotaj to purchase a parcel of land formerly known as Swan Cove—currently the site of eight rundown abandoned bungalows—for $1 million. The sale is contingent upon a subsequent purchase of neighboring land from Tompkins Mahopac Bank, including where the Chamber of Commerce building is currently situated.

O’Keefe gets year in jail for fatal DWI crash

Former Carmel police officer and Town Board member Richard O’Keefe was sentenced to a year in jail and revocation of his license after he reached a plea deal with prosecutors and copped to criminally negligent homicide, a class E felony for the part he played in a fatal car accident on Route 6 in Mahopac.

The collision reconstruction report revealed that the primary cause of the collision was the vehicle driven by Anna Estrada failed to yield the right of way to O’Keefe’s vehicle; however, contributing factors were the speed at which O’Keefe was traveling and the fact that he was operating his vehicle under the influence of alcohol. A State Police investigation revealed that O’Keefe, also a former Mahopac School Board member, was driving at an excessive rate of speed when his vehicle collided with Estrada’s Jeep Patriot. The collision resulted in the death of Frances Ghelarducci, a Somers teacher’s aide, who was seated in the rear of the Jeep.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News


What Is Cambridge Analytica?

Cambridge Analytica is a research organization. Apparently, it is funded by the Mercer family, second only to the Koch brothers on the liberal hit list. Both, through their philanthropy, spend millions on various needy organizations like hospitals. What makes them liberal targets is their funding of various conservative think tanks and candidates. I digress.

Cambridge Analytica used Facebook ...

Support the Hamlet Renaissance

April 6, 2018

This past August, the Greater Mahopac-Carmel Chamber Legislative Advocacy Board (LAB) published its Carmel Vision 2020 paper outlining the need for a new townwide master plan. Since then things have certainly taken off.

The current focus is on Mahopac’s business district and the town’s purchase of the Swan Cove parcel where dilapidated row homes currently stand. The intention is to ...

‘Sister Act’: A Musical Like Nun Other

Of all the Broadway musicals I’ve seen over the years at Westchester Broadway Theatre, only a handful have elicited the noisily enthusiastic audience response I observed at the recent opening night of “Sister Act.”

There were outbursts of applause in the middle of some numbers, and several clever turns of phrase sprinkled in the dialogue landed squarely, to the delight of big ...

Seen Any Good Ol’ Movies Lately?

As I become more, uh, mature, I find myself enjoying older movies more than newer movies. The trio of films presented here for your consideration are three of my all-time favorites. They share great stories, great screenplays, great directing, great acting. They also have in common ratings in the 90s on Rotten Tomatoes, and a place of distinction in the National Film Registry, a highly selective ...

Privacy? LOL!

Author’s Note: Mom + Pop Culture are a couple of real characters. They could be you and me. Or not. Every so often, I eavesdrop on their conversations. Let’s listen in on what they’re saying right now about how Facebook fans are shocked—shocked!—that their privacy has been compromised, prompting them to rise up and exhort oppressed social media users everywhere to ...

Cleaning the Empty Nest

Part of the shock of being a part-time empty nester is when the kids come back to visit and I have to watch my house transform overnight from a pristine haven of OCD goodness to a place that looks like an explosion happened at Forever 21.

After my kids moved mostly out, I put away whatever tchotchkes they chose to leave behind and then I put on a hazmat suit and cleaned their rooms until they ...

Tipping the Scales in My Favor

As I was settling into bed one night, I happened to catch my husband out of the corner of my eye.

He was getting on the scale.

“WHAT ARE YOU DOING?” I yelled at him. He jerked his head around and looked at me with alarm.

“What? I’m weighing myself.”

I jumped out of bed and yanked him off the scale. 

“You can’t do that now!” I ...

Doing Time in the Big House

“So, what did the doctor say about Dad?” I asked my mom over the phone.

“He has an incarcerated hernia,” she replied.

“INCARCERATED hernia?” I repeated.


“Why is it incarcerated? Did it rob a bank?”

“What? No.”

“Unlawful entry? Obstruction? Insider trading?” I ...

Upcoming Events

Fri, April 20, 8:00 PM

Paramount Hudson Valley Theater, PEEKSKILL

Andy Cooney’s Irish Spring Concert- with Comedian ...

Arts & Entertainment

Sun, April 22, 9:00 AM

Yorktown Sports Complex, Yorktown Heights

Yorkville Sports Association (YSA) Draft Day

Giving Back Sports

Sun, April 22, 10:00 AM

Yorktown Sports Complex, Yorktown Heights

Yorkville Sports Association Preseason 50+ - 60+ ...

Giving Back Sports

Houlihan Lawrence in Yorktown Welcomes Three New Team Members

April 10, 2018

Zef Camaj, brokerage manager, recently welcomed three salespersons to the team.

Marco Nogueras is an enthusiastic and dedicated professional who uses technologically advanced marketing techniques bringing the real estate experience to a new level. He values customer service and will ensure your goals are met while keeping you updated on current market conditions. Marco has spent the majority ...