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Nassau County executive candidate Adam Haber has called on Tom Suozzi, his rival for the Democratic nomination, to return thousands in campaign contributions from catering companies he is representing in a case against current and former employees over the nonpayment of tips.
In a letter to Suozzi on Wednesday — the first direct engagement between the two candidates — Haber said the former county executive owed a “public apology to the workers who have been forced to seek legal action against their employers for wages they are owed. Your work has already resulted in significant litigation robbing catering employees of their wages.”
Suozzi, in his capacity as counsel to the law firm Harris Beach, has defended the companies in a dispute over whether service fees charged by caterers were supposed to be paid as tips to staffers.
In an interview last week, Suozzi said: “Quite simply, these guys were not stealing the tip cup. Employees were paid above minimum wage and were often high school or college students. If I felt that these employers were taking advantage of their employees I'd be the first to criticize them.”
In the letter, Haber, who bartended at a Spring Valley catering hall in 1987, said Suozzi should recuse himself from the case and return $10,000 in campaign contributions he received from catering interests between 2006-2009.
Suozzi campaign manager Danny Kazin did not respond to multiple requests for comment on the letter.
“We can make Nassau a better place for everyone, but defending organizations that consistently hurt working families is unacceptable,” Haber wrote. “I think Nassau residents expect more from someone who seeks to represent their best interests.”
Haber and Suozzi will compete in a Democratic primary in September. The winner will challenge republican County Executive Edward Mangano.