DA Rice subpoenas Huntington firm due $70M for Sandy work

Nassau District Attorney Kathleen Rice has subpoenaed records Nassau District Attorney Kathleen Rice has subpoenaed records of a Huntington firm scheduled to be paid nearly $70 million by the county for Sandy cleanup work, according to county sources. Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp

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Nassau District Attorney Kathleen Rice has subpoenaed records of a Huntington firm scheduled to be paid nearly $70 million by the county for Sandy cleanup work, according to county sources.

A law enforcement source said subpoenas went out to various parties, including the county and Looks Great Services Inc., at least three weeks ago -- though some county officials say they were unaware of the probe until last week.

The focus of the investigation was not clear. But union representatives have questioned whether Looks Great paid required wages to its out-of-state crews.

Looks Great spokeswoman Risa Heller said the company has a "policy of fully complying with any laws and regulations applicable to our contract work as well as responding to any lawful and proper request of any cognizant governmental entity for information."

Legis. Delia DeRiggi-Whitton (D-Glen Cove) has peppered county public works officials with questions about Looks Great since its crews chopped down trees in Glen Cove's Welwyn Preserve a month after Sandy. "I've been trying to draw attention to the fact that I was concerned about the record-keeping and the control over the work done by Looks Great services," she said.

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Nassau has paid Looks Great about $35 million of $68.8 million, according to county Comptroller George Maragos. Nassau selected Looks Great in 2009 as one of four contractors approved for emergency debris removal, officials said. The firm first was put to work after Tropical Storm Irene in 2011 and then was hired after Sandy.

County Attorney John Ciampoli said on behalf of the Mangano administration that the "Looks Great contract predates this administration. The contractor submitted their claims, which are subject to multiple levels of review. Clearly, all invoices are public record and subject to audit."

Maragos has asked 12 Sandy contractors hired by Nassau, including Looks Great, for payroll and expense records. A spokesman said Tuesday that Maragos contacted the firms before he learned of the Rice investigation.

Maragos and the Mangano administration have said they do not have subcontractor payroll information for Looks Great because the firm is working under a "purchase order" rather than a public works contract. The county charter requires public works contractors to provide verified statements of all amounts due and owed to subcontractors and their employees before the comptroller approves payment.

County officials have said Looks Great manages 40 to 58 subcontractors.

James Castellane, retiring president of the Building and Construction Trades Council of Nassau and Suffolk, declined to comment on "any" investigation. However, he said he was "fully aware of contractors . . . who go around capitalizing on devastation and not paying the wages and benefits of Long Island-area standards for the construction workers that I represent."

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