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Town Board votes against hiring outside law firm to examine CAT contract

05/23/2019 6:48 AM |

The Riverhead Town Board once again failed to garner three votes to hire an outside attorney to review its agreement with Calverton Aviation & Technology.

This time, there were individual resolutions to hire two different law firms, but only Supervisor Laura Jens-Smith and Councilwoman Catherine Kent, both Democrats, supported them at Wednesday night’s Town Board meeting.

Republican Councilmembers Jim Wooten and Tim Hubbard voted no on both resolutions; Republican Councilwoman Jodi Giglio was absent.

Ms. Jens-Smith said she wants an outside attorney who is not familiar with the Enterprise Park at Calverton or CAT to be “a new set of eyes” to look into whether some recent events involving Luminati Aerospace — a non-voting, 25% owner of CAT — might be grounds for terminating the contract between the town and CAT.

Luminati recently was sued for defaulting on a $10 million loan and a judge allowed some of its property at EPCAL to be seized; it was evicted from the rented space it was using at EPCAL; it was sued by a German company for not paying in full for a piece of equipment, and it left EPCAL and moved part of its operations upstate, although it still owns property at EPCAL.

Critics said the town’s contract with CAT was originally a contract with Luminiati.

Mr. Hubbard said he has concerns over whether the events involving Luminati constitute a breach in contract. But he said he’s not ready to hire any outside law firm. He said the town should first seek the opinion of its current attorney, Frank Isler.

“I’m not comfortable hiring an attorney firm to do something where I’m not clear in my mind exactly what it is we’re going to do,” Mr. Hubbard said.

He didn’t rule out hiring an outside attorney in the future.

Ms. Jens-Smith said she’s “really disappointed” because the board has been dealing with this issue for three weeks.

“At the eleventh hour now, after saying you’re committed to one attorney and committed to another attorney, that you backtrack here.”

Mr. Hubbard also said he believes there are a lot of companies interested in working with CAT and relocating to EPCAL, and he doesn’t want to curtail that.

Mr. Wooten has opposed hiring an outside law firm all along.

Prior to the board vote Wednesday, Chris Kent, an attorney representing CAT, as well as the ex-husband of Councilwoman Kent, urged the board not to move forward with hiring outside legal counsel. He said the recent incidents involving Luminati don’t change anything.

“CAT is planning a substantial investment in an aviation and technology hub,” he said. CAT will conform to the reuse plan and zoning adopted for EPCAL, he said.

“In the process, construction and proposed development will create high-paying, quality jobs and will establish the town as an industrial technology center, and will increase the town’s tax base to new levels,” Mr. Kent said. He said it was known that Luminati had financial difficulties at the time of the Qualified and Eligible sponsor hearing for CAT last year.

Mr. Kent said hiring an outside law firm to investigate the contract with CAT could have an adverse impact on CAT’s attempts to attract companies to EPCAL, and he urged the board not to do so.

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