A marketing company executive linked to Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano through disputed racy messages received two no-bid county contracts of the kind critics have said are designed to avoid public scrutiny.
Karin Murphy Caro’s BluChip Marketing received a $24,500 contract in 2013 to promote Nassau’s film industry, and a $24,000 pact in 2014 for parks department event planning.
In justifying the lack of competitive bids, officials had argued the company had “unique expertise” to promote county events that staff couldn’t match, records show.
Both amounts fell just below the $25,000 threshold that triggers public consideration and approval by the county legislature. Newsday last year detailed how Nassau had issued hundreds of such agreements since 2011, many to politically connected companies. The report came amid larger scrutiny of the county’s contracting process that has led to reform efforts and criminal investigations.
County officials provided Caro’s contracts Tuesday, following weekend news reports that she and Mangano had traded sexually suggestive text messages. Both deny corresponding privately and say the messages — displayed on a piece of paper provided to a television station — are fake.
Mangano, who filed a criminal complaint with the police department over the incident, said he only has had a professional relationship with Caro.
Hauppauge-based BluChip’s first contract with Nassau was signed by Caro in April 2013, and executed by Mangano’s chief deputy, Rob Walker, that June. Under the deal, the company was to promote the county film industry by soliciting support from industry executives, marketing projects, creating a newsletter and developing a “social media presence.”
Then-Parks Commissioner Carnell Foskey argued that the contract was exempt from competitive bidding because BluChip had particular expertise that parks staff did not have.
Such a rationale has been used frequently in awarding no-bid contracts to marketing and media companies for amounts just below the threshold for legislative approval.
The firm’s second pact was signed by Caro in December 2013 and executed by Walker in July 2014. It had the same description of work as the first contract, only with the film industry references crossed out.
Asked Tuesday to detail work performed by Caro’s firm, Chief Deputy Parks Commissioner Brian Nugent said in a statement: “BluChip Marketing coordinated and marketed several successful events in support of veterans and the Games for the Physically Challenged, as well as the Long Beach International Film Festival.” Both contracts were funded by hotel/motel tax revenue, not the general fund, officials said.
Nugent also noted that the company “has an extremely close relationship with the Nassau County Parks Staff that no other firm can match.”
Caro said in an interview that she did a wide range of work under the two contracts, from promoting parks properties on her company’s mailing list and social media to running a veterans’ salute that involved purchasing and installing 1,500 flags in front of a county building.
“We worked very, very hard,” she said. “My job was to make sure that the community saw what was going on, and to promote the parks and use my social media presence, because I know that’s what they liked.”