DiNapoli rejects $4.7M contract to repaint 13 LI bridges

New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, March 14,

New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, March 14, 2012. (Credit: Newsday / Audrey C. Tiernan )

New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said he rejected a $4.7 million contract with a company hired to repaint 13 bridges in Nassau and Suffolk after discovering its apparent close ties to two firms barred from doing business with the state.

The state Department of Transportation failed to fully investigate the contractor, Limnes Corp., according to the comptroller's statement.

Nor did the agency answer DiNapoli's inquiries about Limnes' ties to GBE Contracting Corp. and Matsos Contracting Corp. The Department of Labor banned them for a five-year period ending in 2015 for shortchanging 80 workers by more than $232,000.

"There are many companies competing for work right now and the state should make certain that it puts public projects into the hands of companies that will follow the rules," DiNapoli said earlier this week.

DiNapoli also asked the Department of Transportation to "identify the familial relationships" of individuals who share the Shinas surname, and who apparently are tied to the affiliated firms.

A Transportation Department spokesman had no immediate comment; nor did Popi Shinas, the sole owner of Whitestone-based Limnes Corp.

DiNapoli's rejection of the firm's new contract clashes with his approval last year of its nearly $5.9 million deal with Limnes for painting and removing rust from Long Island bridges.

But last year, the Transportation Department's review of the company and the information it submitted to the comptroller appeared complete, according to Jennifer Freeman, a DiNapoli spokeswoman.

That was not the case this year. "When this contract came to us, a number of red flags came up because the information raised so many questions," Freeman said.

"If we had known what we do today, we would have likely rejected the contract last year," she said.

DiNapoli approves so many contracts every year -- 23,700 transactions in the 2012-2013 fiscal year worth $49 billion -- that he relies on agencies and authorities he oversees to vet vendors, she said.

DiNapoli said he has 90 days to review contracts; most are approved in 15 days.

For this year's contract, Limnes disclosed it was a Matsos affiliate. However, it did not reveal that Matsos was barred from doing business with the state, though it is required to do so, DiNapoli said.

The state Department of Labor in 2010 found that Matsos was an "alter ego" of GBE, which failed to pay the prevailing wage.

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