Comptroller George Maragos accepted 'free fundraiser,' opponent says

Former Nassau County Comptroller Howard Weitzman. (Sept.16, 2013)

Former Nassau County Comptroller Howard Weitzman. (Sept.16, 2013) Photo Credit: Steve Pfost

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Democratic Nassau County comptroller candidate Howard Weitzman charged Thursday that incumbent George Maragos improperly accepted in-kind donations from a county vendor.

"He should never have accepted a free fundraiser by somebody who he has oversight responsibility for," Weitzman said at a news conference outside The Carltun, which is located in Eisenhower Park. "It's a clear conflict of interest."

Maragos, a Republican, said he had followed campaign finance rules when The Carltun allowed him to hold a political fundraiser on Sept. 16 without charge. He accused Weitzman of making "false and malicious" allegations.

"It was above board, it was declared," Maragos said. "It's no different from the contributions he's been receiving from various vendors that have been doing business with the county."

The charges to rent the East Meadow restaurant and catering hall, which leases its premises from Nassau, were valued at $1,500, according to campaign records.

Maragos said he could not confirm how many people attended the event or how much money was raised. The Weitzman campaign estimated Maragos raised $17,600 that night, based on an examination of Maragos' campaign finance filings.

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Weitzman, who served as comptroller for two terms before Maragos defeated him in 2009, said the comptroller's office is responsible for auditing vendors.

Weitzman released an audit of The Carltun in December 2009 that said the restaurant had underreported $4.6 million in revenue, thus shortchanging the county in a revenue-sharing agreement. The audit said the vendor owed the county $504,885 in revenue-sharing and other revenue.

Carltun promptly sued Weitzman and the county for defamation, alleging the audit was politically motivated. The president of The Carltun is Willston Park-based Anthony Capetola, a major Republican donor. Calls to Capetola were not returned Thursday.

Earlier, Weitzman said Maragos had failed to follow up on the original audit and that he believed The Carltun still owed the county money.

In a settlement agreed to in February 2013, the company dropped its defamation claim and agreed to pay the county $381,456. The parties also agreed that Nassau would give the company a $550,000 allowance to install a backup generator at the facility and the county would no longer be liable for power losses during past or future blackouts.

The Weitzman campaign said Weitzman, who was named in the Carltun lawsuit, had not been informed of the settlement by the county.

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