Luminati founder and CEO Daniel Preston at an event in Calverton in June 2016. File photo: Denise Civiletti

Riverhead officials moved ahead on the much-debated appointment of a new outside counsel to advise the town on its rights under the EPCAL contract of sale.

The board hired Lazer, Aptheker, Rosella & Yedid of Melville, one of two firms previously considered for the appointment.

Town board members have been discussing hiring a new firm to review the Calverton Aviation and Technology contract since Supervisor Laura Jens-Smith asked the board to do so in early April, following reports of a multimillion lawsuit and eviction proceedings against CAT partner Luminati Aerospace, a key business in CAT’s development plan for the site.

Councilman Tim Hubbard, who twice voted against appointing a new outside law firm, supported the measure yesterday.

“Now that all our ducks are in a row with the scoping plan and we’ve met with our original attorney, I’m ready to move forward,” Hubbard said before casting his vote to retain the law firm. He was referring to the specific subject matter the firm will advise the board about.

Hexcel Corporation, which made a $10 million loan to Luminati in March 2016, brought a $12.5 million lawsuit for the borrower’s alleged default. Hexcel holds a mortgage on Luminati’s headquarters at 400 David Court and liens on its machinery and equipment. The publicly traded Hexcel, headquartered in Connecticut, obtained an order in State Supreme Court allowing it to seize the loan collateral.

Luminati’s landlord at a second, leased premises occupied by the company at 350 Burman Boulevard, known as “Plant Six” at EPCAL, brought an eviction proceeding for nonpayment of rent. That matter was settled on April 3, when Luminati agreed to surrender the premises to the landlord, Laoudis of Calverton.

Luminati Aerospace is a 25-percent owner of Calverton Aviation and Technology, which is in contract to buy 1,644 acres of vacant land at the enterprise park from the Riverhead Community Development Agency for $40 million.

CAT’s “intended development plan,” appended to the contract of sale as an exhibit, names Luminati Aerospace and “companies that will support Luminati’s operations” as businesses that are expected to locate at the property.

But Luminati apparently will not be operating at the site, according to its cofounder and CEO Daniel Preston. Preston told MyLittleFalls.com Luminati will retain its ownership interest in CAT but is moving his operations to upstate Little Falls.

The resolution appointing Lazer, Aptheker passed 4-1, with Councilman James Wooten voting against it. He did not comment before voting but at previous meetings said he though hiring a new lawyer unnecessary and a waste of money.

Councilwoman Jodi Giglio said she was “not happy” that the board was appointing a firm based in Suffolk County. “I feel it’s important to look at some of the things, predominantly after they close on the property,” she said. “But on working with my fellow board members and understanding their concerns, I will vote and I will accept the scope that all of us would like to see as far as questions answered from the outside counsel in just filling us in on what’s happening and so, in the spirit of cooperation, I will vote yes,” Giglio said.

Jens-Smith reiterated her belief that “it’s important that we have another attorney look at the contract as we go through this process and head towards closing.”

Kent called the decision “critical” and “long overdue.”

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Denise Civiletti
Denise is a veteran local reporter, editor, attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including investigative reporting and writer of the year awards from the N.Y. Press Association. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.Email Denise.