A client represented by Andy Goodell was attempting to partner with Aqueduct Entertainment Group, but Goodell, now a candidate for state Assembly, said all business dealings between he, his client and the group pre-date state legislative leaders and the governor angling for campaign contributions as detailed.
Goodell said his representation of Karl O'Farrell preceded the AEG venture, and his participation ended before the company met approval from state leaders.
In a 300-page report released this week, the state Inspector General details how the relationship between state officials and proponents for a video gaming company seeking a lucrative contract was "doomed from the start." But the business structure of AEG entered the bidding process on shaky ground to begin with, and this assessment has brought the company's legal representation into focus.
Goodell said his actions are falsely represented in the findings of Inspector General Joseph Fisch. But he said all that is needed to refute this claim is Goodell's own statements within the lengthy report.
Fisch refers to Goodell using "semantic minimization" to extract the authority of embattled corporate founder O'Farrell from the leadership at AEG. Goodell served as both a registered lobbyist for AEG as well as private attorney for O'Farrell.
"What we normally think of a lobbyist is a person hired to convince someone of the merits of a client," he said. But he added his experience did not send him to Albany on a daily campaign. Goodell said his lobbyist title is a requirement for any representative of a client, seeking to change a state law, regulation, or in this case, a special license to conduct business in New York.
In 2007, the Lottery Division of New York determined O'Farrell was not eligible to receive a VLT license in New York state.
"The Inspector General claims I tried to minimize his role at AEG," said Goodell. "It is indefensible to suggest that I was trying to hide my client's involvement when my e-mails outline my client's role."
Within the report, an e-mail from Aug. 7, 2009, and sent by Goodell to William Murray, deputy director of the state lottery division, provides what he said describes O'Farrell's supported role in detail.
"Mr. O'Farrell has been involved with AEG as a developer and consultant in its efforts to submit a bid to New York state," the e-mail states.
After O'Farrell was denied a license to construct video lottery terminals in the state, Goodell said he fought to clear his client's name. In the meantime, Goodell devised a separate "holding company" to isolate O'Farrell's stock in AEG, titled Aqueduct Community Enterprise. He said he was abiding by the ruling that had already been determined.
"If AEG is awarded the franchise, it is anticipated that Mr. O'Farrell will continue to assist AEG in coordinating construction contacts and construction financing," Goodell wrote in the same e-mail from 2009. "Any role for Mr. O'Farrell after bid award will, of course, be subject to the review and approval of the Division of the Lottery."
While Goodell views his written comments in a favorable light, he called into question the inspector general's hasty presentation which he said includes hearsay quoted as fact.
Murray supplied a quote for the report from Larry Woolf, CEO of an AEG subsidiary company. As it appeared likely that AEG would be disqualified from the bid in August 2009, Woolf allegedly said both O'Farrell and his attorney, Goodell, represented "a cancer in our organization and we're determined to cut it out."
But Goodell countered with an e-mail which contested this was ever said.
Woolf wrote to Goodell: "I never said any of that. I have never used the word cancer. I did say that if they had concerns we would make what ever changes were necessary."
Calling the report a "hatchet job" from Albany, Goodell said the document was created at the request of Assemblyman Sheldon Silver. He added Fisch focuses much of the attention on Gov. Paterson's office, including the executive counsel and secretary.
"This is a further example of the extraordinary measures that Albany politicians will resort to for political gain," he said.
Goodell said this is not the first time the office of Inspector General will have to amend its research. He argued O'Farrell and his enterprise known as Capital Play Limited was incorrectly barred from developing racetracks across the state. Goodell had to appeal to the state Racing & Wagering Board, he said, and submit their letter in order to have Fisch's ruling reversed.
A lawsuit brought by Richard Mays on behalf of AEG in 2007 challenged the state lottery division's intention to block its permit. "Midway through the licensing process and, therefore, without adequate notice," it said "Lottery (division) supplanted its regular policies, practices, and procedures with ad hoc and unauthorized policies, practices, and procedures," that included a requirement for each of AEG's members to submit licensing applications, rather than just its managing members.
Fisch's report from this week cites "improprieties" related to O'Farrell's business practices from 1999 with Capital Play. At the time the company "retained counsel and had the license reinstated," it reported. It added O'Farrell claimed his counsel advised that, since the business was essentially defunct, Capital Play Pty Ltd should surrender its license.
Editor's note: Goodell is mentioned in the pdf report, which is to the right of this story, from pages 78 to 93.