The Oyster Bay Town Board on Tuesday approved an additional $350,000 to pay an outside law firm handling legal issues stemming from its business with Harendra Singh, bringing the total to $600,000.
The town hired the Manhattan law firm of Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan LLP in May to handle the issue of disputed $20 million loan guarantees. The town board retroactively hired the firm in September, at which time it approved $250,000 in legal fees. The town pays the firm $985 an hour for partner work.
Town Supervisor John Venditto and administration officials have declined to answer questions from the public and the media about the rising legal bills.
Singh was indicted in September on 13 federal charges, including bribing an Oyster Bay official to obtain the loan guarantees. Singh remains in federal custody awaiting trial.
The loans were ostensibly for capital improvements to town facilities operated by Singh’s companies under agreements with the town that last until 2065 and 2070. Federal prosecutors have alleged that Singh used the loans for operating expenses. Town officials have not accounted for discrepancies in the capital improvements reviewed by an independent consultant and what board resolutions reported had been made.
Although the town disputes that the loan guarantees are valid, the note holders, subsidiaries of the Connecticut-based The Phoenix Companies, continued to list Oyster Bay as the debtor on the loans in annual financial statements released last month.
Newsday reported last year that Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission are investigating the guarantees. In February, the town board approved an additional $40,000 for the town auditors handling of information requests from the SEC, Councilman Joseph Pinto said in an interview.
The concessions at the town golf course and Tobay Beach are currently being run by investors who bought into Singh’s companies.
Venditto said on Tuesday said he believed the town and the investors are closer to an agreement that would remove the loan guarantees.