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Judge allows subpoena in probe of ex-attorney general's firm

ALBANY -- A state judge has denied an attempt to quash a subpoena issued by a state lobbying oversight agency that is investigating the activities of a lobbying firm led by former state Attorney General Dennis Vacco.

Investigators from the state lobbying commission this week recommended $325,000 in fines against the firm over allegations that it entered into an illegal contingency-fee arrangement with a Rochester businessman seeking to build casinos with an Oklahoma Indian tribe.

Vacco's firm has denied the charges and said its work never constituted lobbying under New York law at the time.

A lawyer representing Vacco's firm, Crane & Vacco, last month went to court to try to block a subpoena issued by the lobbying agency to James Crane, who is married to Constance Crane, Vacco's lobbying partner. James Crane, an Albany lawyer who does legal representation for the lobbying firm, alleged in court papers that David Grandeau, the executive director of the lobbying commission, has a personal vendetta against him stemming from several incidents over the years.

But State Supreme Court Justice Joseph Teresi ruled that the subpoena is valid. Teresi said that although the personal vendetta accusations are "suspect," they are "irrelevant to the issue of whether or not the subpoena is enforceable" because the commission may proceed with its probe so long as the material being sought is relevant to its investigation.

A year ago, the Albany County district attorney, acting on a referral from the lobbying commission, cleared the Vacco firm of any wrongdoing in the matter, saying there was no contingency fee arrangement.

The Vacco firm said Wednesday it complained about Grandeau's "misconduct" a year ago to members of the lobbying commission and the attorney general's office, but never received any replies for its calls for an investigation of Grandeau. It said Grandeau's move, approved Tuesday by the lobbying board, to hold a hearing in June on the civil charges against the lobbying firm "is nothing more than another attempt to impugn our reputation."

e-mail: tprecious@buffnews.com

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