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Oyster Bay ex-town attorney: lawsuit is 'act of retribution' for testifying

Leonard Genova, in court documents, says his testimony in a federal corruption trial is what led the town to file a lawsuit against him seeking more than $840,000.

Town of Oyster Bay Attorney Leonard Genova during

Town of Oyster Bay Attorney Leonard Genova during an Oyster Bay Town Board on May 24, 2016. Photo Credit: Newsday/Alejandra Villa

Oyster Bay’s lawsuit against former Town Attorney Leonard Genova was an act of retribution for testifying in a federal corruption trial, Genova’s attorney said in a court filing Wednesday.

The town’s lawsuit, filed in August in State Supreme Court in Mineola, was “intended to … defame Genova for testifying against the town’s former supervisor, John Venditto and  [former]  Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano,” Genova’s Manhattan-based attorney Nicholas Gravante Jr. said in the court filing. The document also alleged that the town lawsuit was meant to “intimidate into silence anyone who is contemplating testifying” in the retrial of Mangano in January.

The town is seeking more than $840,000 — more than six years of Genova's salary plus damages — for alleged negligence and malpractice in what the lawsuit said was his failure to prevent and detect a multimillion loan guarantee scheme involving former town concessionaire Harendra Singh. The loan arrangement was at the heart of a federal corruption trial brought against Venditto, Mangano and his wife, Linda. Venditto was acquitted on all charges and the Manganos are to be retried after a mistrial.  Linda Mangano was not charged in connection with the alleged loan guarantee scheme.

“This is a message that the town is trying to send to people who cooperated with law enforcement, or people who are contemplating cooperating with law enforcement that they had better think twice about doing so,” Gravante said in an interview Thursday.

Current Town Attorney Joseph Nocella said in a statement Thursday: “The Town has a fiduciary obligation to taxpayers to recover money lost from the self-admitted gross negligence, incompetence and illegal acts of its former employees."

He said Genova's filing was "based strictly on technical defenses and not on any direct rebuttal of the allegations or substance of the claims.”

Genova was granted immunity from criminal prosecution in return for testifying in the Venditto-Mangano trial. 

Gravante noted that the town had not sued Venditto and Mangano for their alleged roles in the loan scheme. The town in 2017 brought a civil case related to the loan guarantee against Singh, his wife Ruby, former Deputy Town Attorney Frederick Mei, law firm Harris Beach PLLC, creditor PHL Variable Insurance Co. 

Genova testified during the trial that he had accepted bribes from Singh in the form of free car service and discounts at Singh’s restaurants. Genova also testified that he had signed amendments for the loan guarantee arrangements on the town’s behalf but said he had not read them.

The town lawsuit alleges Genova changed his story in court from what he had previously told town officials. The suit alleges Genova's actions exposed the town to millions of dollars in legal expenses and potential liabilities and the town is seeking to recoup some of those losses.  

Singh pleaded guilty in 2016 to bribing Oyster Bay officials in return for securing $20 million in loans indirectly guaranteed by the town.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has also sued the town and Venditto, alleging securities fraud over how they disclosed and failed to disclose the guarantees to municipal bond investors.

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