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Long IslandColumnistsJoye Brown

Frederick Ippolito tax-evasion case raises conflict of interest questions

Frederick Ippolito, the Oyster Bay planning and development

Frederick Ippolito, the Oyster Bay planning and development commissioner who has been indicted on charges of evading taxes on $2 million in consulting fees, sold his restaurant, Christiano's, to Singh. Photo Credit: Newsday / Ted Phillips

An attorney for Frederick Ippolito, Oyster Bay's commissioner of planning and development who last week was charged with federal tax evasion, said the case has nothing to do with Ippolito's town job.

But information included in the federal indictment raises the question of whether Ippolito, as a town official, may have had a conflict of interest by handling business involving a paving firm that also was paying him consulting fees.

Last week, Ippolito was charged with allegedly evading taxes on more than $2 million in consulting fees he received from Carlo Lizza & Sons Paving Inc. and a Lizza family member from 2008 to 2013.

Ippolito, who pleaded not guilty and Monday disputed the charges in an interview with Newsday reporter Ted Phillips, had worked for Lizza Paving before he was hired by the town in 2009.

He continued to receive commission fees from Lizza -- while also dealing with town matters involving the company.

A 2010 Newsday story, for example, notes Ippolito's views -- as the town's planning and development commissioner, a post he had also held from 1978-87 -- on a Lizza family proposal that later helped the town shutter an asphalt plant in Hicksville that residents considered a nuisance.

According to the federal tax evasion indictment, Ippolito filed annual financial disclosure forms with Oyster Bay, from 2009 through 2012, listing Lizza as his former employer.

No problem there.

The indictment also notes that Ippolito, in addition to his town job, listed the "Lizza Family Trust" as an employer. He wrote that he was a consultant.

An examination of portions of Ippolito's town financial disclosure forms from 2009 through 2013 also shows that he twice mentions "commissions earned from previous employer, Carlo Lizza and Sons Paving Inc."

His fees were redacted from the document.

One of those disclosures was in a section where town employees are to list "parties to and terms of any agreement providing for continuation of payments or benefits . . . in excess of $1,000."

That means town officials should have known that there was a continuing financial relationship between its commissioner and a firm that, for years, has had multiple contracts with the town.

Town officials did not comment Monday. So there was no quick way to determine whether Ippolito, who is a vice chairman of Nassau's Republican Party, sought or received permission -- from the town ethics board, or some other entity -- before becoming involved in matters involving Lizza.

Meanwhile, Robert Ripp, an Oyster Bay resident, has lodged a series of complaints against Ippolito with the town and the Nassau district attorney's office.

One involved allegations that Ippolito had improperly stored boats on unpaved state property.

The state found no violation, saying it left code matters to local authorities. The town conducted an investigation, but refused to release the results.

Officials are supposed to avoid even the appearance of conflict, when it comes to conducting public business. And that business is supposed to be conducted out in the open.

And yet the town continues its stubborn silence.

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