Subpoenas served on Suffolk in Sandy contracts probe

A backhoe piles debris from superstorm Sandy in

A backhoe piles debris from superstorm Sandy in a parking lot of the Percy Raynor Ball Field in South Setauket. (Oct. 31, 2012) (Credit: Daniel Brennan)

Grand jury subpoenas have been served on Suffolk County as part of a widening series of investigations into how millions of dollars of superstorm Sandy-related public works contracts were awarded and executed on Long Island.

The county, the latest in a string of local governments to receive grand jury subpoenas, has been ordered to provide the Suffolk County district attorney's office with legislative records, copies of emergency declarations County Executive Steve Bellone signed, and documents relating to work performed in the aftermath of the Oct. 29 storm, officials said.

"A subpoena was received about April 16 in connection with Sandy," County Attorney Dennis Brown said.


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The county is working to comply with the request, he added.

Officials said an extensive number of county Department of Public Works documents were still being compiled as of late Wednesday with the intention of handing them to the district attorney's office, perhaps as early as Thursday, according to the subpoena.

Suffolk clerk subpoenaed

Separately, Tim Laube, clerk of the Suffolk County Legislature, said he received a subpoena on April 16 seeking legislative records and documents relating to Sandy.

He said the records were sent to the district attorney's office electronically on April 16 and 17.

"They were general and publicly available documents available on our website -- several resolutions to do with legislation the county is considering or that has passed relating to Hurricane Sandy and minutes from committee meetings and other general meetings where the legislation was considered," Laube said.

The latest round of subpoenas in Suffolk comes as President Barack Obama is set to consider a request to increase the federal share for post-Sandy public works projects that qualify for Federal Emergency Management Agency reimbursement from 75 percent to 90 percent.

The increase would ease the bill that the town, village and county governments on Long Island will have to foot as they rebuild.

The county subpoenas follow others served by the Suffolk district attorney on five towns: Huntington, Brookhaven, Babylon, Islip and Smithtown.

Investigators are looking into whether government officials steered lucrative cleanup work to certain contractors and whether those workers were paid state mandated wages.

Subpoenas have also been served by the Nassau district attorney, who is looking into the process by which Sandy cleanup contracts were awarded, and how the work was performed.

Already FEMA has reimbursed Long Island governments, school districts, the Long Island Power Authority and others about $500 million for storm related expenses.

Separately, the state attorney general's office is investigating Sandy contracts awarded on Long Island. Additionally, the federal Office of the Inspector General for the Department of Homeland Security -- which has oversight responsibilities for FEMA money -- has said it is auditing and investigating work in the New York-New Jersey region in relation to Sandy public works projects.

Bill Hillburg, spokesman for the inspector general's office, declined to say if any investigations under way involved Long Island public works projects.

U.S. and state probes

Meanwhile, Newsday has reported that the U.S. Department of Labor is looking into potential wage and payroll violations in Sandy-awarded contracts.

The state Department of Labor is also looking into these issues, a source said.

Russ Haven, legislative counsel with the New York Public Interest Research Group, an advocacy organization and government watchdog, said the combined effect of these investigations has the potential "to shake Long Island governments to their very foundation."

"The old adage is to 'follow the money,' and if you're going to find corruption, it's likely to be located where there's big amounts of government spending done on an emergency basis -- that's when traditional checks and balances are rushed and there's such a pressing human need to respond."

With Paul LaRocca

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