The Brookhaven Town Industrial Development Agency said yesterday it will heed a request from the town supervisor for a midyear audit of employment levels at strikebound Clare Rose Inc. to determine if the beer distributor is still eligible for IDA tax breaks.
IDA chairman Frederick C. Braun III, in a letter to Supervisor Edward P. Romaine, said the agency would conduct a midyear review of job figures from all projects receiving tax breaks.
“If any project is in violation of the job levels promised and to the extent our agreements permit, I will recommend that the board consider taking action to amend or possibly claw back previously granted benefits,” Braun said.
He noted that Clare Rose employed 192 people at its East Yaphank warehouse and headquarters on Dec. 31, which is more than the 177 it had promised upon receiving IDA help in 2009.
Braun’s letter came a day after the IDA board turned down an appeal from 10 striking Clare Rose employees to rescind tax incentives given to the company in 2009 and 2014.
The workers, members of Local 812 of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, said that Clare Rose’s payroll has shrunk since the strike began last month. More than 100 warehouse workers and delivery truck drivers are walking the picket lines.
The IDA board, on the advice of town and IDA attorney Annette Eaderesto, nixed the idea of a midyear employment audit of Clare Rose on Wednesday because all IDA projects would have to be audited at midyear. There were 72 active IDA projects in 2015, according to the most recent available data from the state comptroller’s office.
Hours after the IDA board meeting, Romaine wrote to Braun requesting a second examination of the employment numbers at Clare Rose.
An expert on New York IDAs said yesterday it was “unusual” for a union to demand that tax breaks be rescinded.
“It is not the role of an IDA to mediate or interfere in labor disputes,” said Brian McMahon, executive director of the IDA trade group New York State Economic Development Council.
He also said the midyear review ordered by the Brookhaven supervisor could still show that Clare Rose met its job promises. “It is likely that, unless the striking workers have been fired, the job count still exceeds what was projected,” he said.
The Budweiser and Heineken distributor has two IDA tax deals.
The largest was granted to support construction of the $44.5 million headquarters and warehouse in East Yaphank. Together, the deals carried a total tax savings of $928,055 in 2015, but Clare Rose only utilized $510,050, in property tax savings, in 2015, according to IDA officials.