Thursday, February 24, 2011

AEG subpoena fight cost state big time bucks

From City Hall:

Senate Democrats spent tens-of-thousands of dollars in taxpayer funds to quash subpoenas issued by the state Inspector General’s office seeking information about the conference’s role in the Aqueduct Entertainment Group scandal, according to Senate expense records.

On April 1, 2010 Senate Democrats cut a check for $29,300 to the Manhattan criminal defense firm Thompson, Wigdor & Gilly LLP—a payment Senate Democratic spokesperson Austin Shafran confirmed was used for a lawsuit to block the Inspector General’s subpoena requests, though the State Supreme Court ultimately rejected the suit. All of this came less than a month after the Paterson administration, under a cloud of scandal, shut down the AEG contract.

Shafran insisted the funds were used for official Senate business, and not to shield individual members from potential legal fallout.

In October, the Inspector General’s office released a scathing report that found several high-ranking Democratic senators, including now-Minority Leader John Sampson, Malcolm Smith and Eric Adams, among others, had acted improperly in initially helping AEG win a multi-billion dollar racino bid.

Notably, $118,000 in subsequent payments to Thompson, Wigdor & Gilly were made by the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee in June for individual legal services for Senate members. Shafran said the shifting nature of the case led Senate Democrats to pay the firm at first out of government funds and later out of campaign funds.

Thompson, Wigdor & Gilly did not return a request for comment about the firm’s role in the case.

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