Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano’s administration proposed in June 2012 that county lawmakers approve an almost $200,000 contract with a bakery owned by the wife of now-indicted restaurateur Harendra Singh even though the bakery was not the lowest bidder and did not meet all bid specifications for providing bread and food to the county jail, records show.
That contract — though never approved by the county Legislature Rules Committee — was referred to in a federal indictment on Oct. 20 that charged Mangano and his wife, Linda, with taking bribes and kickbacks in return for awarding county work to businesses associated with “Co-conspirator #1,” identified by sources as Singh.
Prosecutors accused Linda Mangano of receiving $450,000 for a no-show job as a “food taster” at one of Singh’s restaurants, and the county executive of accepting gifts, including trips, a $3,600 massage chair and a $7,300 Panerai Luminor watch, from Singh.
Oyster Bay Supervisor John Venditto also was charged last month with soliciting bribes and obstruction of justice in relation to the town’s award of long-term concession contracts and loan guarantees to Singh in return for the use of office space and “significantly discounted rates for events and fundraisers” at Singh’s restaurants, headquartered at H.R. Singletons in Bethpage.
The Manganos and Venditto have pleaded not guilty to all charges.
Singh was arrested in September 2015 on federal indictment. He has yet to go to trial.
The meeting transcript does not indicate why the Rules Committee, headed by then-Presiding Officer Peter Schmitt (R-Massapequa), on June 25 awarded the bread and rolls contract to the low bidder, Rockland Bakery of Nanuet, instead of Ruby Singh’s San Remo Bakery in Massapequa. Schmitt died four months later.
But a Republican legislative spokesman this month provided Newsday with a letter from Ruby Singh, dated June 20, 2012, in which she withdrew from the contract process. “Due to budget miscalculations, I have to resign from the BID, since I will not be able to provide the products with the prices I offered,” according to the letter signed by Ruby Singh. No payment was ever made to the San Remo bakery, according to the county comptroller.
Legal sources said it would be a crime to obtain the contract in a corrupt manner even if it wasn’t fulfilled.
County records indicate only that Rockland and San Remo responded in April 2012 to the county’s request for sealed bids to provide 11 different bread and roll items to the county jail.
Rockland, a major regional bakery that had worked for Nassau in the past, initially was awarded the contract by the county’s purchasing department, for a bid of $193,591. Michael Schlenoff, deputy director of purchasing, advised the legislature that Rockland was “the lowest responsible bidder meeting specifications to provide bread & rolls (fresh.)”
A one-year contract with Rockland was submitted to the legislature on April 13 for approval, but lawmakers never acted on it.
On June 18, the purchasing department submitted a new one-year contract to the legislature for the same work — except the award was to San Remo for a total price of $193,825, $234 more than Rockland.
San Remo had never held a contract before with Nassau County, according to legislative documents. This time, Schlenoff told the legislature that San Remo “is the lowest responsible bidder meeting specifications to provide bread and rolls.”
However, San Remo did not offer to supply two of the 11 bakery items required in the bid specifications — plain and flavored wraps. Compared with Rockland’s bid, San Remo offered only one item at a lower price while matching Rockland’s bid on four categories. Rockland offered lower prices on the remaining four categories.
Emails attached to the San Remo contract indicate that Nassau had attempted on June 13 to break up the food and roll contract by offering Rockland a contract for the six bakery items with the lower prices and San Remo a contract for the other items.
Rockland withdrew at that point, saying in an email that the smaller amount “would not cover our delivery expenses.” The bakery said, “If new supplier does not perform Rockland Bakery would be glad to step back in.”
The San Remo contract included a “summary of bids” chart, signed by Schlenoff, that was different from the unsigned “bid analysis” chart attached to the Rockland contract. The Rockland chart included a total cost of the bids, which showed Rockland offered the lowest price. The chart attached to the San Remo contract did not give a total price for the bids.
On June 20, San Remo pulled out.
As a result, the San Remo contract was never called by the Rules Committee. There was no public discussion that the administration had attempted to break up the contract and designate San Remo as the low bidder. The only contract considered by the committee was the contract with Rockland, which contained the bid analysis showing the company as the lowest bidder.
Ruby Singh did not disclose in the bid that she is married to Harendra Singh. Nor was disclosure required, even though she listed two of her husband’s restaurants as references.
One was the Quinn Restaurant Corp., doing business as the Water’s Edge restaurant in Long Island City, Queens. The Water’s Edge had been paying Linda Mangano for part-time work in “marketing and advertising” since April 2010.
A second reference was Raj & Raj Realty Ltd., a Singh catering company based at the same address as H.R. Singletons. Raj & Raj subsequently was paid $238,200 by the county through a series of no-bid emergency purchase orders to provide hot food to county, state and federal officials who worked out of Nassau’s emergency management center after superstorm Sandy in 2012. The purchase orders were never brought to the county legislature for approval, as required by the county charter.
Mangano, a Republican, has defended his relationship with Singh, saying they have been good friends for more than 25 years. Mangano’s son worked part time at a Singh restaurant, and Singh was one of only a few nonpublic officials to be on the stage behind Mangano when the county executive was sworn in for his second term in 2014.
Mangano spokesman Brian Nevin said of the jail bread contract, “all procurement procedures were properly followed.” He added that the county executive “is not involved in any bid process” for that contract or the meals for emergency management.
Republican legislative spokesman Frank Moroney, who was not working for the legislature at the time, said a deputy county attorney who reviewed the original bid noticed that San Remo was located in Massapequa, Schmitt’s district. When it was brought to Schmitt’s attention, Moroney said, Schmitt said the county should look into giving the bid to San Remo under Nassau’s local preference law.
Local preference refers to a decades-old law that allows the county to give preference to local bidders when possible.
Deputy County Executive Ed Ward, who was Schmitt’s spokesman and policy adviser at the time, said he does not remember anything about the bread and roll contract. He agreed that Schmitt preferred to give contracts to Nassau companies when possible. But, Ward said, “Schmitt never had anything to do with Singh. He was asked about a local vendor. . . . It wasn’t that he was fronting for Singh.”
After Ruby Singh withdrew from the bid Schlenoff emailed Schmitt, his counsel Chris Ostuni, then-legislative liaison Greg May, then-County Attorney John Ciampoli, Chief Deputy County Executive Rob Walker, then-Deputy County Executive Tim Sullivan, four deputy county attorneys and a purchasing agent that the bakery had pulled out, according to records provided to Newsday by Moroney.
“I’ll tell the PO,” replied Ostuni, referring to Schmitt. “You can’t make this stuff up.”