BUFFALO, NY - An investigation into how the Empire State Development Corporation doled out money and awarded contracts for the Billion to Buffalo is getting costly. Lawyers are getting nearly $800 an hour.

Jimmy Vielkind, reporter for PoliticoNew York spotted a memo on the ESD website on Tuesday that was presented to the ESD Board back in July.

It made the case for retaining outside lawyers and what federal prosecutors are looking at in the case. "The language in the memo which was sent to ESD's board of directors by the authority's president Howard Zemsky, suggests that they are looking at all projects and expenditures coming from the Buffalo Billion, so that would include mostly the SolarCity site at Riverbend, but potentially other sites as well," said Vielkind.

Empire State Development is the state's economic development authority. They are spending nearly $800 an hour for lawyers at private law firm in Washington D.C.
L-P Ciminelli is the construction company selected by the Cuomo administration to build the factory for SolarCity. There are questions about how the company was selected and the bidding process.

Jason Conwall, ESD spokesman issued a statement via email. "As we've previously said, several months ago, the U.S. Attorney had requested that ESD assist in providing documents and ESD secured outside counsel to aid in that process."

the outside legal contract is not to exceed $200,000 with the top lawyer earning $795 an hour, discounted rate.

While Empire State Development Corporation has in-house counsel, their memo suggests, because the investigation is criminal in nature they believe they are better served with outside legal expertise.

Preet Bharara, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, is not commenting on this case.