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Lawsuit targets NY firms

County Commissioner Urban says he supports efforts to recoup money.

Luzerne County Solicitor Vito DeLuca filed a lawsuit Thursday on the county’s behalf against two New York companies that are under a federal investigation – Continental Consultants Group and B & M Investigations.

DeLuca said a suit is necessary to force the companies to answer questions, including whether B & M prepared a report on pre-employment procedures that cost county taxpayers $35,000.

DeLuca said he has exhausted efforts to contact the companies through phone numbers on record.

“I made attempt to contact the individuals related to the company and I got disconnected numbers or no response,” DeLuca said.

He served the suit at the registered address listed for both companies in New York corporation records – the Happauge, N.Y., law firm of Miller, Apfel & Curran.

Firm representative Dennis Apfel said the firm assisted a client in setting up the corporations, but the firm has no connection to the companies and should not be identified as a mailing address. Another firm representative said Thursday that the law firm has notified the state that it must be removed as a mailing address. The representative would not identify the client or clients who set up the companies, saying that is privileged information.

The law firm plans to reject the county filing. The representative said the suit must be directed to the New York Secretary of State, and that office will then be responsible for identifying the corporate officers.

DeLuca said the suit will allow him to perform discovery, which means a judge could order the companies to provide requested information.

Minority Commissioner Stephen A. Urban said he agrees that a lawsuit is necessary.

“I fully support the suit and recouping any money we can for the taxpayers of this county,” Urban said.

Continental received $807,770 from May 2007 through July 2008 to provide payments to county retiree consultants and flood clean-up workers.

The flood cleanup contract wasn’t publicly approved by commissioners or signed by a Continental representative. There was no Continental contract for the retiree consultants.

The county controller’s office released the funds to then-human resources director Doug Richards, who sent a directive that the checks were to be delivered to him or former employee William Maguire instead of mailed to the New York City address listed on the flood cleanup contract.

Richards, who signed all forms authorizing the county to pay the company, was fired Nov. 18 for failing to answer the county’s questions about Continental. A source said federal investigators are looking into whether Richards has a connection to Continental. Richards, who has not responded to requests for comment, has not been charged or accused of any wrongdoing.

B & M was paid $55,000 to perform county background checks and compile a pre-employment procedure report that has not been located. Federal authorities are also investigating B & M’s work in the county.

The county’s contract with B & M was signed by William Grub, and a man by the same name directs security at the Manhattan time share where Richards and other county officials stayed during trips to the city.

DeLuca has found suspicious connections in Richards’ e-mails, including a blank invoice and letterhead for B & M.

One e-mail from John Luongo to Richards, Grub and Maguire referred to the draft Continental contract agreement.

Luongo was among the retired New York City Police Department representatives that county Commissioner Greg Skrepenak met on trips to the city to discuss crime-fighting strategies, Skrepenak has said.

Maguire, the county’s former county emergency management municipal coordinator, has pleaded guilty to accepting $1,400 from a contractor in connection with supporting a contract on the Housing Authority, where he was a board member.

Laptop returned

Luzerne County officials say fired human resources director Doug Richards returned his county laptop computer on Thursday morning. The county had sent him a certified letter demanding return of the equipment.

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