A state appellate court in Brooklyn has told a lower court to reconsider whether former Suffolk County real estate director Allan Grecco is entitled to be reimbursed for legal costs in connection with the controversial county purchase of the Chandler estate in Mount Sinai.
The ruling comes more than a decade after Grecco first maintained the county should have paid his legal fees and indemnified him for his work as a county employee on the $5 million land deal that was subject to various investigations and lawsuits. Questions were raised over appraisals of the property.
Earlier, two county attorneys -- Robert Cimino and his successor, Christine Malafi -- rejected Grecco’s request for reimbursement of his legal fees in part because of questions as to whether Grecco misused his position to benefit the seller, Robert Toussie, who did substantial business with Grecco’s title company. Earlier court rulings went against Grecco as well.
The appellate panel remanded the case back to State Supreme Court Justice Thomas Whelan to determine whether Grecco should be reimbursed for his legal fees in light of developments since Cimino and Malafi first denied payment.
In the last seven years, appellate judges ruled the lawsuits were settled or discontinued, and two witnesses -- one a former county official, the other still a county employee -- said Grecco “was acting within the scope of his employment.” The decision also stated none of the government investigations made an “adverse finding against Grecco” and the county itself never took action against Grecco for wrongdoing and was satisfied with the price paid for the land.
“The question of whether a county employee was acting within the scope of his .?.?. employment when alleged wrongdoing occurred is a factual one which must be determined .?.?. by the county attorney and that determination may be set aside only if lacks a factual basis and in that sense is arbitrary and capricious,” the ruling stated.
Harvey Besunder, Grecco’s lawyer, called the ruling “favorable” but declined further comment except to say he is in discussions with the county. He declined to reveal the amount of Grecco’s legal fees.
Vanessa Baird Streeter, a county spokeswoman, said, “Because this is an ongoing legal matter, the county has no comment other than to state that we believe the Appellate Division decision was incorrect and inconsistent with their prior order.”