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Follow That Car!

Attorney Frank Longo sues mechanic for libel based on allegations in AV article

Three weeks ago, we reported on a civil dispute between mechanic Leonard Fink and attorney Frank Longo (“The Cadillac Controversy, Artvoice v8n24).Fink says Longo refused to pay a bill for $7,584.60, plus tax, for the paint job that Fink performed on Longo’s 1972 Cadillac Eldorado convertible back in June 2007. Longo, a law clerk to Erie County Family Court Judge Patricia Maxwell, summoned Buffalo police to Fink’s shop, Buffalo Street Rod & Restoration, on Ontario Street, to settle the dispute. Fink says he showed the police officers the work order Longo had signed, and the statement on that work order above Longo’s signature indicating that Fink had a mechanics lien on the vehicle. (A mechanics lien grants possession of a vehicle to a mechanic until the bill for work performed has been paid.) But Fink says the officers weren’t interested in the work order or the mechanics lien or anything he had to say, and sided with Longo. Fink says the officers watched as Longo used a spare set of keys to drive the car away.

Fink spent the next several months sending letters to Longo, Buffalo Police Commissioner H. McCarthy Gipson, the New York State Attorney Grievance Committee, the New York State Attorney General’s office, and Longo’s bosses at Erie County Family Court, pleading his case, looking for some resolution. He got nowhere, and so he’s suing Longo in civil court.

My calls to Longo were returned by his lawyer, who told me her client didn’t believe he owed Fink any more money than he’d already paid. (About $10,000 for body work, performed previous to the paint job, which Longo had paid in weekly installments, after inspecting the work Fink had performed.) Her client would pay whatever he owed, she said, but Fink could not document any further debt.

Longo’s attorney would not, and still has not, made her client available to tell his side of the story. But upon publication of the article, Longo was apparently furious. A few days later, Fink called the Artvoice office to tell me that his lawyer had told him that Longo was suing Fink for libel.

Fink’s attorney confirmed that Longo’s attorney had said she was filing a suit, though he added that neither he nor Fink had received a copy of the proceedings. He would not comment on the ongoing settlement negotiations.

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