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Oyster Bay ex-town attorney seeks to disqualify law firm in case against him

Former Oyster Bay Town Attorney Leonard Genova in

Former Oyster Bay Town Attorney Leonard Genova in 2016. Credit: Newsday/Alejandra Villa

Attorneys for former Oyster Bay Town Attorney Leonard Genova are seeking to disqualify the law firm pursuing a case against him on behalf of the town.

The town sued Genova last year for malpractice, breach of fiduciary duty and other alleged transgressions related to his role in a loan guaranty scheme that was at the center of federal corruption charges against former Town Supervisor John Venditto. Genova testified in the trial in return for immunity from criminal prosecution. Venditto was acquitted.

In May, the Manhattan-based Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan LLP notified the state court the law firm, including attorney Jonathan Pickhardt, would appear on behalf of the town in the case. The town hired Quinn Emanuel in 2015 in relation to a federal investigation into the loan guaranty scheme and former town concessionaire Harendra Singh.

Genova’s attorney, Nicholas Gravante of Manhattan-based Boies Schiller Flexner LLP, in June said in a court filing the Quinn Emanuel firm should be disqualified because its attorneys would likely be called to testify in the case and because while serving as town attorney, Genova had disclosed “confidential information” to Pickhardt in the context of an attorney-client relationship.

“The town retained Quinn Emanuel through Leonard Genova, who was the town attorney, and all conversations as well as all information exchanged was directly based on communication with Mr. Genova,” Gravante said in an interview. “For that reason the disqualification motion must be granted.”

Town officials declined interview requests. Oyster Bay spokesman Brian Nevin emailed a statement attributed to current town attorney Joseph Nocella saying, "The town retained Quinn Emmanuel to represent it as a municipality — not to represent Mr. Genova — and therefore Mr. Genova's motion is frivolous.”

Oyster Bay has paid Quinn Emanuel more than $3 million in legal fees since 2015. The town is seeking more than $840,000 — the equivalent of more than six years of Genova's salary plus damages — in part to recoup legal costs the town has incurred from investigating and defending itself in the loan guaranty scheme. Former Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano was convicted earlier this year in a federal corruption trial in connection with the loan guarantees. 

In April, the town's case was reassigned to state Supreme Court Judge Linda Jamieson of Westchester.

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