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Oyster Bay town board OKs legal fees to represent workers

Oyster Bay Town Supervisor John Venditto addresses the

Oyster Bay Town Supervisor John Venditto addresses the community after being sworn into office to begin his 10th term as supervisor at Oyster Bay Town Hall, Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2016. Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

The Oyster Bay town board on Tuesday approved nearly $90,000 in attorney fees for representation in undisclosed legal proceedings involving town employees.

The board authorized $86,577.50 in payments to Clayman & Rosenberg LLP, a Manhattan-based law firm that specializes in white-collar criminal defense, civil litigation and regulatory matters including investigations by the Securities and Exchange Commission.

“It relates to personnel and potential litigation,” Town Supervisor John Venditto said in response to a question from Massapequa resident Robert Ripp. Venditto, who through a spokesman declined to be interviewed, did not elaborate.

The town faces investigations from federal authorities, the SEC and the Nassau County district attorney over $20 million in disputed loan guarantees obtained from the town by indicted restaurateur Harendra Singh.

The resolution approving the payment said it was “to represent a number of town employees” whose identities were discussed in executive session.

Town Parks Commissioner Frank Nocerino told Newsday on Feb. 2 that he had spoken to federal investigators. He later retracted his statement and said he could not comment. The parks department has oversight over concessions agreements with Singh that are at the heart of the loan guarantees.

Singh was indicted in September on 13 federal charges including bribing an Oyster Bay official to obtain the loan guarantees. Prosecutors allege that the official arranged meetings between Singh’s lenders and town officials. Venditto, on advice of legal counsel, has repeatedly declined to answer questions about the town’s relationship with Singh. No town officials have been publicly charged.

The town board has approved legal fees for undisclosed matters several times over the past 10 months. In April the town board approved $250,000 for the New York City law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP, but officials have refused to say why the firm was hired other than it involved potential litigation, or if any taxpayer money has been expended on the firm. In December the town board approved paying Cozen O’Connor PC, a Philadelphia-based firm with Manhattan offices, $37,017 for representation of an undisclosed town employee in an undisclosed matter.

In September, the board retroactively approved paying the law firm Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan LLP in Manhattan for $234,487 in legal fees for work done since May 1 on potential Singh-related litigation. Town officials have refused to answer questions about subsequent billings by the firm which has continued to represent the town at a rate of $985 an hour for work by partners.

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