The politically connected head of a Roslyn malpractice insurer testified Thursday he feared firing Sen. Dean Skelos’ son for failing to show up at work and threatening a supervisor because the powerful Senate majority leader became “upset” when the issue was raised in a phone call.
“I did not want to have a problem in Albany,” Physicians’ Reciprocal Insurers boss Anthony Bonomo told jurors at the Manhattan federal corruption trial of Skelos, who resigned as majority leader when he was charged, and his son, Adam.
Bonomo, a former New York Racing Association official who had known Skelos since the two were up-and-comers at a law firm in 1980, provided some of the most potentially damaging testimony yet in the three-week trial as he described the pressure Dean’s power created on him to keep paying Adam.
Adam was hired only after steady pestering from Dean at fundraisers and parties, Bonomo said, and then the senator took an unyielding stance and a blunt tone when Bonomo told him Adam — just 10 days after starting work — wasn’t showing up and was fighting with a boss who pressed him about the absences.
“It just seemed the senator was upset,” he testified. “It was a different tone than I had experienced previously in our conversations. . . . It wasn’t a response. It was just, ‘Well, work this out.’”
As the Skeloses, side-by-side, gazed intently from the defense table a few feet away, Bonomo said from that moment forward he had no choice because of Skelos’ power over Senate bills that could mean life or death for his company, including a law that allowed it to operate while technically insolvent.
“It didn’t seem to me that if Adam didn’t comply I would be able to fire him,” he said. “The senator is the majority leader and I didn’t want this to be a wedge or a problem between us. . . . The threat was if this was going to create a problem, I didn’t want that to get in the way of legislation not passing.”
Dean Skelos, 67, and Adam, 33, both of Rockville Centre, are charged with scheming to “monetize” Dean’s power by pushing Bonomo’s company, developer Glenwood Management and environmental firm AbTech Industries to give Adam work, and then by using official clout to help AbTech win business.
Bonomo, 57, of Manhasset, said he and Skelos were “cordial and friendly” — even sharing annual husband-and-wife dinners after attending Christmas parties thrown by ex-U.S. Sen. Alfonse D’Amato, now a lobbyist.
Skelos began pushing him in 2010 to help Adam, Bonomo said. He at first began giving court-reporting transcription work to a firm that employed Adam’s girlfriend, and finally agreed to give Adam a sales position at a $78,000 salary after Dean said his son needed a job with benefits.
After the phone call with Dean in January 2013, Bonomo said, things kept deteriorating. Adam, according to an earlier witness, finally threatened to “smash” his supervisor’s head in. At that point, Bonomo testified, Adam agreed to become a $3,000-a-month consultant, so he wouldn’t have to come to work.
He never generated any sales but, said Bonomo, “It was just the easiest thing to do. I didn’t want to have a problem with the senator.”
In earlier testimony Thursday, Elizabeth Garvey, chief counsel to the Republican senate conference, linked the Skeloses to a meeting she was told to set up for AbTech with the state health department to pitch a product it hoped would be a moneymaker if the state approved hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, to drill for petroleum.
Garvey testified she never knew Adam was working for the company, but she was told to set up the meeting by Robert Mujica, Dean’s Senate chief of staff. Prosecutors showed an email from Adam to Mujica with a link to AbTech’s website, which he passed to Garvey to give to health officials.
Around the same time, during a meeting in Dean Skelos’ office, Garvey testified the senator broached the topic, asking “What’s happening with the DOH meeting?”
Mujica pointed at her, she testified, and she explained she was still working on it. Dean Skelos didn’t say anything else, she said.
Prosecutors allege that arranging that meeting is one of the corrupt official acts Skelos performed in return for payments to his son.