The paving company that paid lucrative consulting fees to a top Oyster Bay Town official now facing tax evasion charges has long been one of Nassau's largest and most influential road contractors, while its president and his wife have been leading campaign contributors to prominent politicians.
Carlo Lizza & Sons Paving Inc., one of several firms run by generations of the same local family, has received about $100 million in publicly bid county work since 2002, covering each of the last Democratic and Republican administrations in Nassau, county records show.
Over that period, members of the Lizza family — primarily Lizza & Sons president Elia Aly Lizza and his wife, Marisa — have given nearly $1 million in political donations to Nassau leaders and party committees. They include former Democratic County Executive Thomas Suozzi; current GOP County Executive Edward Mangano; Democrat Kathleen Rice, the former district attorney who now represents the 4th Congressional District; and the Nassau Republican Committee, which alone has received more than $612,000 from the Lizzas.
Still, the family largely had a low profile, until last month's federal indictment of Frederick Ippolito, the Republican Oyster Bay planning and development commissioner. The indictment charged him with six counts of income tax evasion, alleging that he failed to report $2 million in fees from Lizza & Sons and an unnamed Lizza family member from 2008 to 2013.
Ippolito, who also worked for the paving company before his town appointment, has pleaded not guilty. He is on a voluntary leave of absence from his town post, using accrued sick, personal and vacation time.
High donations, low profile
Executives of Lizza & Sons, based in Old Bethpage after decades in Hicksville, were not accused of any crime. Company officials and Lizza family members didn't return requests for comment. Through an attorney, John Carman of Garden City, they said they were "not in a position to contribute to your story at the present time."
The Ippolito case represents an unusually public moment for a family that is well known to county power brokers but mainly avoids the spotlight, even as it continues getting millions of dollars in annual road contracts in Nassau and Oyster Bay Town, including $14.7 million from the county in 2014.
"Most major donors, by and large, want to remain anonymous," said Michael Dawidziak, a Bohemia political consultant who works largely with Republicans. "They don't want to put themselves out there."
Family members spanning three generations have owned local paving companies and asphalt plants and headed residential and commercial developments in Nassau and Suffolk counties, public records show.
Carl Lizza Jr., who with Carlo Lizza Sr. founded the paving company, ran the asphalt plants in Hicksville as well as an oil company, a 600-acre horse breeding farm in upstate Delanson and a horse racing stable.
The late Carl Lizza Jr.'s separate Roslyn company, Lizza Industries, founded in 1968, was another major road contractor. That company was convicted by a jury in the 1980s of federal bid-rigging charges related to repair contracts on 45 miles of Long Island highways. Lizza Industries was fined $1 million.
Nephews also work and give
Carl Lizza Jr.'s brother, Elia Aly Lizza, 67, of Oyster Bay Cove, has been president and CEO of Lizza & Sons Paving since 1976, with his sons now also serving as top company officials. Several of Elia Aly's nephews separately run Intercounty Paving Associates, which has offices in Hicksville and Hackettstown, New Jersey. Officials of the two companies, however, share few other connections and even sometimes bid against each other for county and town road work in Nassau.
Intercounty has received $42 million in Nassau contracts since 2002 and made about $70,000 in political donations to powerful county officials, including Mangano and Suozzi.
"My impression is they've always supported members of both parties, but their main focus has been to just get contracts and do their job," Suozzi, who was county executive from 2002-09 and ran again in 2013, said of the Lizza family.
Lizza companies and family members gave Suozzi's campaigns about $160,000 between 2002 and 2013, records show.
Consistent contract wins
Elia Aly Lizza, known as Aly, "took over a family owned paving company with approximately $1 million in assets and turned it into one of the largest asphalt paving contractors on Long Island," according to contract documents the company submitted last year to Nassau County. Lizza & Sons has averaged $17 million in contracts each year, the documents said.
The company has received $99.1 million in contracts from Nassau County since 2002, records show. In recent years, its contracts awarded through the bid process have far outpaced those received by other firms that also resurface roads.
For instance, Lizza & Sons received $23.3 million in county resurfacing contracts between 2011 and 2013, according to county comptroller records. In that period only two other firms had resurfacing contracts: Posillico Civil, of Farmingdale, with $7.5 million, and Intercounty, with $2.8 million.
One high-ranking county official, who requested anonymity to speak openly about the bidding process, said of Carlo Lizza & Sons: "Their price is just so low, and the cheaper it is, the more roads we do."
"They bring down the price considerably," the official said.
From 2002 through 2009, under Suozzi, Carlo Lizza & Sons received $41.7 million in publicly bid contracts. They've received $57.4 million since Mangano took office in 2010.
Asked to describe Lizza & Sons' performance, county public works spokeswoman Mary Studdert said in an email: "The firm's work is satisfactory."
Lizza family members, led by Elia Aly's sons Keith and Aly Jr., and the family firms have given Mangano $112,500 in campaign cash. They also have contributed $100,500 to the Hicksville Republican Committee, which is run by Mangano's chief deputy, Rob Walker.
A Mangano spokesman declined to comment.
Giving to GOP largest
But the family's largest contributions have been saved for the county's Republican Party.
Elia Aly and Marisa Lizza and sons have given the Nassau GOP committee more than $550,000 since 2002, with other family members and their companies raising the total to $612,575, records show. There is no record of contributions to the county Democratic Party.
Nassau Republican chairman Joseph Mondello declined to comment. But a top GOP official said: "The company and family has had a relationship with the Republican Party for decades, and with Democratic elected officials for decades."
Mondello's son-in-law, Christopher Ostuni, served as Lizza & Sons' in-house attorney in the mid-2000s. Ostuni, who declined to comment, is now counsel to the majority GOP in the Nassau County Legislature.
Ostuni also was involved in a land deal with the Lizza family that followed the family's sale of open space to the Republican-controlled Town of Oyster Bay.
In 2006, the town spent $4.5 million to buy 3.6 acres of land overlooking Mill Pond in Oyster Bay hamlet, saying it would be preserved. The Lizza family then sold a remaining portion of their land to Mondello's daughter and Ostuni, drawing criticism from Democrats.
Newsday reported in 2009 that district attorney's investigators under Rice had reviewed the Oyster Bay land purchase in 2007 and "determined there was no wrongdoing."
On the Democratic side, Elia Aly and Marisa Lizza and children contributed more than $144,000 to Rice over her district attorney re-election campaigns in 2009 and 2013, her 2010 run for state attorney general, and her congressional bid. Rice aides declined to comment.
Beyond the consulting work it gave Ippolito, Lizza & Sons continues to have road contracts with Oyster Bay, though town officials didn't provide the total it was awarded in recent years. In financial documents Lizza provided Nassau County last year, it listed three Oyster Bay contracts totaling $5.7 million that were active or just completed as of mid-2013.
Neither North Hempstead nor Hempstead Town has given Lizza & Sons contracts since 2002. But just through its work in Nassau and Oyster Bay, it has had a large impact.
"If you see a road being built or repaved in Nassau County, whose name do you see on the trucks?" Stanley Klein, an LIU Post political science professor and a Suffolk Republican committeeman, said of the Lizzas. "They have been very, very successful, and they understand money has no 'right' or 'left.' "