The on-again, off-again resolution hiring a new outside counsel to advise the town on the EPCAL land deal is on again.
Councilman Tim Hubbard, whose “no” vote scuttled the move to proceed with a contract review — something Supervisor Laura Jens-Smith has been advocating for two months — says he’s ready to move forward and expects to vote on the resolution at tomorrow’s town board meeting.
In an interview Saturday morning, Hubbard said he will support the appointment of the Melville firm of Lazer, Aptheker, Rosella & Yedid to review the contract and advise the board of its rights in light of recent developments involving Luminati Aerospace.
Hubbard said he has dismissed previously expressed concerns that such an inquiry may have a negative impact on the town’s application for a New York State $10 million downtown revitalization grant.
Hubbard said the board met in executive session on Thursday with special counsel Frank Isler to hear his advice on the town’s position in the deal now that a key player in the development, Luminati Aerospace, has removed itself from the site.
Luminati, a partner in the company buying 1,644 acres of vacant land from the town at the Calverton Enterprise Park, will not be operating at the site, according to its cofounder and CEO Daniel Preston. He has relocated operations to the upstate City of Little Falls, Preston told a news outlet there. Preston said Luminati will retain its 25-percent interest Calverton Aviation and Technology, a company formed by Luminati and Triple Five Group in December 2017 for the purpose of buying and developing the former Navy land in Calverton.
Preston could not be reached for comment. The phone number at its 400 David Court, Calverton headquarters has been disconnected and a cell phone number listed as his contact number on a press release belongs to a former Luminati employee.
Preston’s revelation to MyLittleFalls.com followed RiverheadLOCAL’s report of a $12.5 million lawsuit brought by Hexcel Corporation against Luminati for its alleged default under a $10 million loan made to Luminati by Hexcel in March 2016 — and an eviction proceeding for nonpayment of rent brought by the owner of the Plant Six building at EPCAL Luminati leased in 2016. (Luminati later surrendered the premises to the landlord.)
After those reports surfaced, Jens-Smith began asking the board to hire a second special counsel to review the contract and advise the board of its rights given the developments with Luminati.
At the board’s April 16 regular meeting, when Jens-Smith brought it up for discussion, Hubbard, along with council members Jodi Giglio and Catherine Kent, agreed to hire a new firm and agreed to vote at a special meeting on April 25.
But on April 25, when the supervisor put forward a resolution to hire the Garden City law firm of Stagg, Terenzi, Confusione and Wasnik, Giglio and Hubbard balked. Hubbard said he wouldn’t vote on a law firm without first interviewing prospective firms himself. A list of three firms had been provided by the supervisor to town attorney Robert Kozakiewicz, who researched them and said all were qualified. Jens-Smith picked Stagg, Terenzi. Giglio objected, arguing that the firm was politically connected to the Democratic party because of past contributions it had made to political committees and candidates. The resolution, lacking a third vote, failed.
Board members subsequently interviewed the law firms and two resolutions were on the May 22 meeting agenda — one appointing Stagg, Terenzi and the other appointing Lazer, Aptheker. Jens-Smith and Kent said they would support either firm. But Hubbard joined Councilman James Wooten in voting against both. Giglio was absent. Both resolutions failed 2-2.
On May 22, Hubbard said he wouldn’t vote to appoint a new outside counsel without first consulting with the town’s existing outside counsel in the EPCAL sale, Frank Isler. Isler, with another lawyer Michael Heller — who was brought in at Hubbard’s request in 2017 — negotiated the contract of sale on behalf of the town and has represented the town in all matters involving the sale, including overseeing the town’s “qualified and eligible” examination of the purchaser.
Following the closed-door meeting with Isler May 30, Hubbard said Saturday he is ready to move forward with appointing the Lazer, Aptheker law firm. He declined to discuss the substance of the executive session discussion.
Jens-Smith confirmed this morning that the resolution will be on the agenda tomorrow.
“Hopefully third time’s a charm,” she said.
The supervisor said she was dismayed by what she called “stalling tactics” that prevented the town from getting the legal opinion prior to Calverton Aviation & Technology giving the town notice of its intent to proceed to closing.
“Instead of trying to do the right thing for the community and the people’s business, to ensure we’re heading in the right direction, to make sure w’ere protected in this contract, we get stalling and politics,” Jens-Smith said.
“Everybody’s rooting for the success of EPCAL. We want this to be an economic generator. We need to make sure that’s what this is,” she said.
“There’s nothing worse than having tons of questions and not any answers, than going into something without knowing whether we’re going to get what we were promised.”
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