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As legislative leaders seek to award New York's thoroughbred racing franchise that's due to expire Dec. 31, a state committee has subpoenaed a firm that recently won a no-bid contract with the New York Racing Association, which holds the current franchise.

The law firm of Getnick & Getnick of Manhattan has been subpoenaed to testify before the state Commission of Investigation, Neil V. Getnick said Thursday, just as NYRA fights to keep the franchise it's held since 1955.

The subpoena apparently stems from a recent hearing by the state Senate's racing committee, in which the no-bid contract to Getnick & Getnick as integrity counsel was criticized. The contract is worth $125,000 a month.

Senators and NYRA's competitors have questioned the hiring of the law firm. The firm was appointed by a court in 2005 to oversee NYRA's finances and was instrumental in helping NYRA avoid a federal indictment for mismanagement.

"I regret that I was not afforded the opportunity to appear before the state Senate racing committee when it held its NYRA related hearing earlier this fall," Getnick said. "I would welcome the opportunity to testify before the state investigation commission. The facts are straightforward and should be heard by the public."

"We stand in full support of Neil and his firm," said Charles Hayward of NYRA. "We're thrilled to be associated with them."

Asked if he thought the subpoena was timed to hurt NYRA's chances at renewing its franchise, Hayward said: "I think the investigation is not fact based."

In 2005, Getnick & Getnick's report found that after years of mismanagement and corruption, NYRA had reformed itself enough to avoid a federal indictment and be in the running to retain its lucrative franchise. The U.S. Attorney's Office investigating NYRA then moved to dismiss the indictment against NYRA. Getnick & Getnick was paid more than $4 million for that study, funded by NYRA.

Now NYRA is competing against Empire Racing, Capital Play and Excelsior Racing Associates for what is expected to be a 30-year franchise to operate Aqueduct, Belmont and Saratoga race tracks.

Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno called for public negotiations with Gov. Eliot Spitzer and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver to form a consensus. The various options discussed in closed-door sessions include awarding the racing franchise to NYRA _ favored by Spitzer and supported initially by Silver. Bruno said he opposes Spitzer's plan, but is open to discussing various combinations that could include NYRA.

Under Spitzer's plan, a separate franchise would be awarded _ with NYRA's input _ to one of the gaming partners with the racing groups that would run video slot machines at Aqueduct and potentially at Belmont.

The Senate is scheduled to be in session next week to consider only racing, Bruno said. The Assembly will commit only if there is agreement by the leaders, spokesmen said.

The closed-door negotiations, however, have grown to include several other measures including a pay raise from lawmakers and state judges, a senior citizen tax break, and a $900 million capital budget that would be directed to projects back in lawmakers' districts as a kind of pork-barrel spending.

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