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$20M Singh loan guarantees uncertain, Oyster Bay officials say

Oyster Bay Town Supervisor John Venditto on election

Oyster Bay Town Supervisor John Venditto on election night, Nov. 3, 2015. Credit: Johnny Milano

Oyster Bay Town Supervisor John Venditto hasn’t given board members details about a proposal he announced more than a month ago to get the town out from under $20 million in loan guarantees extended on behalf of indicted restaurateur Harendra Singh, three board members said.

“I haven’t seen anything,” Councilman Anthony Macagnone said Friday. Macagnone said he wanted time to review any proposal and to ask questions. The public should be able to get answers too, he said.

Councilmembers Joseph Pinto and Rebecca Alesia also said last week that they hadn’t seen a proposal.

Pinto said in an interview he preferred a “clean break” from the Singh companies that hold concession agreements with the town. But he said he was concerned about the potential costs of a legal fight over the loan guarantees.

Singh was indicted in September on 13 federal charges, including bribing an Oyster Bay official to obtain the loan guarantees. Newsday reported last year that Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission are investigating the guarantees.

“If we have to do an RFP, I’m not too upset about that because that’s what I’ve wanted all along,” Pinto said, referring to a request for proposals seeking other companies to operate the concessions at the Woodlands golf course and Tobay Beach.

Councilman Chris Coschignano said at the Feb. 2 meeting during which Venditto announced the proposal that taxpayers needed to know what was being considered.

“We have to do this as publicly and as transparent as we possibly can so that everybody can see what we’re going through here, the decisions that will be made,” Coschignano said.

Oyster Bay spokeswoman Marta Kane said in an email Friday that the investors had not submitted a proposal and she declined to comment on the state of negotiations over the concessions.

In an interview last week, an investor in Singh’s company said the town was asking for too much in regards to the loans.

“They’re pushing us to pay off the loan and the loan is not a small loan,” said the investor, who asked not to be identified while negotiations continued.

At least three investors bought shares in Singh’s companies that operate the Woodlands and Tobay Beach concessions. Harendra Singh no longer owns those companies, but his wife Ruby still owns shares in them, Newsday has reported.

The investor said he has been working out a loan modification with the lender, Connecticut-based The Phoenix Companies Inc., that holds the note on the loans that the town guaranteed.

The investor said that the town has insisted that the investors pay off the loans, which would remove the guarantees.

The insistence that the loans be paid off, he said, came through the town’s outside legal counsel. That counsel, Jonathan Pickhardt of Manhattan-based Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan LLP, did not respond to requests for comment.

In the past, town officials have disputed that the loan guarantees were enforceable. Newsday has reported that the guarantees weren’t disclosed in financial statements before the Singh indictment last year.

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