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"Grand Jury Probes New York Airport Deal"



Friday, December 27, 2002

Grand Jury Probes Airport Deal
East Hampton officials alleged to give fraudulent papers
By Bill Bleyer
Newsday (NY)


A federal grand jury is investigating an allegation that East Hampton
officials submitted a fraudulent document to the federal government to
obtain $1.5 million for improving the town airport, officials confirmed
yesterday.

The FBI served subpoenas on current and former town officials last week
for documents concerning East Hampton Airport master plans and projects
going back to 1989.

The grand jury is looking into an allegation by former town deputy
supervisor Pat Trunzo III that the town received $1.5 million from the
Federal Aviation Administration after it submitted last year a document
it said was a copy of the town's 1989 airport layout plan but was really
a document that was never adopted by the town and that contradicted
stipulations of the earlier approved plan. The money was used for paving
a parking apron for aircraft.

Town Attorney Eric Bregman said "there was a subpoena ... that asked for
documents ... from 1989 to the present and all records concerning the
receipt of all money from the FAA ... "

Richard Cahn, a Melville attorney handling airport issues for the town,
said, "We delivered some documents on Tuesday and we are seeing what
others we can collect."

"It's ridiculous," Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman said. "The town has
done absolutely nothing wrong."

The subpoenas issued by a grand jury working with Assistant U.S.
Attorney Geoffrey Kaiser in Central Islip instructed that the documents
be turned over to the FBI's by Dec. 31. Kaiser said, "I am covered by
the secrecy rules of the grand jury and that means I can't comment on
the grand jury investigation."

Trunzo, who also received a subpoena for documents, said he had brought
the issue to the attention of the U.S. attorney's office. "I am
encouraged by their investigation," he said.

Trunzo is a leader of the Airport Planning Coalition, a group of
residents and environmentalists fighting to keep the airport small and
limit business jets and the noise they generate. He and his allies have
filed five state and federal lawsuits since 1997 trying to block changes
at the airport. The two state suits, which were based on environmental
grounds and included the allegation of obtaining money improperly from
the FAA, have been dismissed. The federal suits are pending.

Trunzo appeared before the town board in May and accused it of
submitting an airport layout plan to the FAA in 2001 that it certified
was the same report he had prepared and that was adopted by the town
board in 1989, even though the specifications for the size of aircraft
the airport was designed to handle were different. The town and the FAA
had not been able to find any of the 10 signed copies of the 1989
report, so the town is now preparing an updated plan to resolve the
issue.

The subpoenas arrived a day before the town board held a hearing
attended by 150 residents on the new plan. The critics say it will allow
more jet traffic, but the board insists it will only improve the safety
of the airport without expanding operations or encouraging larger plans
to land.


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