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Oyster Bay legal bills related to Singh cases top $3.3M

Harendra Singh walks out of federal court in

Harendra Singh walks out of federal court in Central Islip after being released on bail on Wednesday, August 3, 2016. Credit: James Carbone

Oyster Bay’s legal bills over disputed loan guarantees with former concessionaire Harendra Singh have topped $3.3 million and continue to climb.

The total represents payments authorized by the town to three outside law firms since 2015.

On Tuesday the Town Board approved paying $676,716 for a nearly year-old bill from the Manhattan law firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP for work on the issue. Since 2015, the town has paid or approved more than $1 million in payments to the firm for Singh-related work from February 2015 through October 2016.

The disputed loan guarantees are at the heart of federal charges brought against Singh, former Town Supervisor John Venditto and Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano. Federal prosecutors allege that Mangano pressured Venditto to execute guarantees on Singh’s behalf in return for bribes and kickbacks. The three have pleaded not guilty. Mangano and Venditto’s trial is scheduled to begin in January. The multimillion dollar loans were supposed to pay for capital improvements to town-owned facilities that prosecutors alleged weren’t done.

The law firm’s work concluded on Oct. 25, 2016, town spokesman Brian Nevin said in an email. That’s five days after federal prosecutors indicted Venditto. The firm invoiced the town in December but town officials said they were negotiating the bill, which was reduced from $845,896.

Town officials have not disclosed details of the firm’s work.

“They were retained . . . to assist the town of Oyster Bay in responding to any and all requests and cooperating with any and all authorities regarding the former town concessionaire matter,” Oyster Bay chief deputy town attorney Frank Scalera said at Tuesday’s board meeting. Scalera said the firm’s work was “not for any individual’s criminal issues.”

Municipalities frequently hire outside legal firms for specialized work that can’t be provided by internal lawyers.

The timing of the approval — a week after the election — drew criticism from former town board candidate Robert Freier.

“I’m sure this is the first of many postelection surprises we will see,” Freier said Wednesday.

The town has been sued by Singh creditors and in turn the town has sued Singh and others involved in the transactions.

The majority of the town’s legal expenses in the matter — $2.2 million — have been paid to Manhattan-based Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan LLP, which continues to represent the town. Since 2015, town has also hired three other law firms for related services, including Manhattan-based Morvillo Abramowitz Grand Iason & Anello PC to represent it in an enforcement action expected from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. In July the SEC notified the town that its staff was recommending that the SEC seek action against Oyster Bay for alleged violations of securities law. Although the SEC’s notice didn’t provide details of the alleged violations, the town’s response focused on the loan guarantees which it said were unauthorized and unenforceable.

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