The phrase “public-private partnership” seems to carry a special meaning in Nassau County.
The federal case now completed against state Sen. Dean Skelos and his son, Adam, showed the close interlock among prominent members of the county’s political elite.
Take former Sen. Alfonse D’Amato’s testimony for the prosecution last week regarding the senior Skelos, whom he’s known in a friendly way since the 1980s when the latter was a lawmaker on his home turf.
D’Amato’s lobbying firm, Park Strategies, represents Physicians Reciprocal Insurance, which employed Adam Skelos. D’Amato said his partner Greg Serio, who handles PRI, “wasn’t happy” that the younger Skelos was skipping work and being disruptive.
So in April 2013, D’Amato visited the elder Skelos’ state office in Rockville Centre to warn him his son could lose his job. But that wasn’t the only time Adam Skelos was on D’Amato’s radar. The younger Skelos also visited the Park Strategies office in Uniondale because “the senator asked if I would meet with Adam to give him some advice,” D’Amato testified.
“We met with Adam and my brother Armand, who is one of our Park Strategies partners as well,” D’Amato testified. He said that when the prospect of “working with” Adam Skelos later arose, Christopher D’Amato, the ex-senator’s son and the lobbying firm’s general counsel, along with other associates, opposed bringing him into the firm and he was not hired.
Certain threads in the political weave are decades old. For one, Roslyn-based PRI long ago hired as a lobbyist Joe Margiotta, the county’s late Republican boss.
Early in the Skelos trial, the U.S. attorney’s office presented a recording of state senators discussing a county plan they opposed for Long Island Expressway billboards. Left unmentioned, since it didn’t directly bear on the case, was that Park Strategies also represented Allvision, the company pushing the idea.
The public-private transactions of Nassau insiders also emerged when Chief Deputy County Executive Rob Walker took the stand. He acknowledged that he’s separately under federal investigation, in part for helping someone with whom he had a personal relationship obtain contracts with an entity doing business with the county.
County Executive Edward Mangano’s potential troubles arising from his own private friendship — with indicted restaurateur Harendra Singh — cropped up in an indirect way. Lawyers in discussion with Judge Kimba Wood alluded to the prospect that Mangano might have been called to testify about the county’s dealings with a stormwater filter company that formerly employed Adam Skelos. But the issues of immunity and self-incrimination were raised, and he didn’t take the stand.
Singh’s actions also figure in the recent scandals at a town-government level in Oyster Bay.
On the private side, real estate, electronic billboards, storm-water filters, title insurance, and malpractice insurance drew mention. On the government side, federal funds, state legislation, and county contracts came into play.
Prosecutors who tried the Skeloses ended up telling a political tale of Nassau along the way.