Brown: 'Butch gets enough'
"It's pile-on-Butch season," concessionaire Butch Yamali was saying last week, referring to battles with Hempstead Town, Nassau University Medical Center and Suffolk County over beachfront concessions, a grill and gift shop, and a heck of a lot of vending machines.
"I've got seven lawsuits going," he said. "I'll do what I have to, to clear my name."
As he demonstrated as a prosecution witness in the first trial of former County Executive Edward Mangano in 2018, Yamali's no wallflower. He talks fast — often, really fast. He is feisty.
In a telephone interview, Yamali was as confident as he was deft at offering up defense after defense in addressing the barrage of legal and other issues that, over the past several months, have been tossed his way.
The U.S. attorney's office has subpoenaed Hempstead for records on Yamali's Dover Gourmet Corp., which has run the town's Malibu Beach Park since 2009. While the Town Board voted down resolutions to hire an outside law firm to investigate an extension Yamali received on the Malibu beach contract, the board did agree to bolster oversight of contracts after Yamali filed suit.
But let's roll back to 2018, and the Mangano trial.
Yamali took the stand to bolster prosecution witness testimony that Mangano's former friend, restaurateur Harendra Singh, was awarded a lucrative county contract to feed workers stationed at Nassau's emergency management center during superstorm Sandy.
"Butch gets enough," a former county worker, according to testimony, said in 2012, before Nassau bypassed Yamali's catering company in favor of Singh's firm.
Yamali did not testify at the retrial of Mangano, who was convicted in March on corruption-related charges.
To this day, however, Yamali remains adamant that the contract awarded to Singh should have gone to Dover.
He expresses the same kind of certainty about ongoing battles.
Hempstead Supervisor Laura Gillen, a Democrat who is up for reelection, sought to dig deep into Yamali's initial contract and the extension for him to run Malibu. And Gillen recently ordered that Yamali's firm cease operations at The Sands catering hall.
"It's politics," Yamali says, in a tone conveying a dismissive shrug of the shoulders.
What about Nassau University Medical Center's demanding $1 million from the Yamali company that was ousted from operating the hospital's coffee and gift shop because, officials said, the firm owed about $400,000 in unpaid fees?
"The number is wrong and there is no way I could make things work after the kitchen exhaust system broke," says Yamali. And no exhaust system, he said, meant "no fried foods, which would be the most popular items."
OK, so what about a judge's decision in July ordering another Yamali business, Dover Hospitality Services, to pay Suffolk County Community College $290,347 for not turning over commissions to operate cafeterias and vending machines?
Or Nassau County's decision last month not to renew a contract with Yamali-run Dover Gourmet Corp. after disclosures that the firm owes Nassau Community College more than $213,000 for on-campus vending machines?
Yamali launches into a lengthy explanation, about credit card purchases and the expense of fees and equipment and how he'd had conversations with people about this, and about that.
Several times, Yamali, who will be 58 next month, mentions his beginnings driving an ice-cream truck. Almost as many times he talks about the thousands of adults — and teenagers — his companies have hired over the years.
As for the former county worker who, according to testimony in the Mangano trial, was said to have said, "Butch gets enough"?
"She used to work for me," Yamali says.
So, too, did the son of Joseph Cairo, chairman of Nassau's Republican Party.
"He wasn't a kid, though," Yamali says. "He was an adult and he did a great job."
What's it like to go from prosecution witness in a major federal case one year, to being the center of scrutiny the next?
Even on that, Yamali — who says he's been advised by an attorney not to speak about some topics — doesn't skip a beat. "Everybody knows me, I've got nothing to hide," he says. "They know who I am and what I have done, and I get calls from people who are supporting me."
Still, Yamali, who lives in Merrick, acknowledges — frequently — during the telephone interview that he is not perfect.
That he, sometimes, makes mistakes.
"Sometimes the hamburger is undercooked and the steak comes out tough," he says.
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