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Oyster Bay has paid $1M in legal fees related to disputed loans

Harendra Singh, walks out of federal court in

Harendra Singh, walks out of federal court in Central Islip with his attorneys, Brenda Ahern, left, and Anthony LaPinta, after being released on bail on Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2016. Credit: James Carbone

Oyster Bay has to date paid more than $1 million in legal fees for investigations and civil litigation related to disputed loan guarantees at the center of the federal criminal charges against Town Supervisor John Venditto, records and interviews show.

The town has paid $1,037,693 to three law firms for work done since February 2015 and is currently negotiating with one of the firms over additional legal fees of more than $500,000, the records show.

Federal prosecutors last month charged Venditto with conspiracy to commit bribery, fraud and obstruction of justice connected to millions of dollars of loan guarantees extended by the town on behalf of indicted former town concessionaire Harendra Singh. Venditto has pleaded not guilty.

The town paid the Manhattan law firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP $361,793 for work done from February through July 2015, according to invoices obtained through a Freedom of Information Law request.

The town initially paid the firm as a consultant to its outside legal counsel, Sinnreich Kosakoff & Messina LLP of Central Islip, which submitted an $111,359 bill to the town in April 2015.

A partner, Jonathan Sinnreich, said he hired the firm at the town’s request after “the town became involved in responding to what was obviously the investigation that’s ongoing.” Sinnreich clarified that he meant the Singh investigation for which he was already helping town officials with subpoenas.

Paul Weiss worked as a consultant for about one month until the town was able to formally retain them for the investigation, Sinnreich said. This year the town paid them an additional $250,434, records show. For more than a year town officials have declined to answer questions about the firm’s work for the town and the invoices reviewed under the Freedom of Information law were redacted.

One of the firm’s partners, Michele Hirshman, a former federal prosecutor who specializes in white collar criminal defense, billed the town at an hourly rate of $1,175 an hour, the records show.

Town Councilwoman Rebecca Alesia confirmed Wednesday that an $86,577 payment this year to Clayman & Rosenberg LLP, a Manhattan-based law firm that specializes in white-collar criminal defense and civil litigation, was also for Singh matters.

The town has to date paid Manhattan-based Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan LLP $589,922 to represent it on Singh matters, records show. Alesia said the town is negotiating with the firm over additional fees owed of more than $500,000.

“When you’re put into a position where you have to provide information and give answers in defense of the town, you have to do what you have to do,” Alesia said.


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