The Hempstead Town Board is scheduled to vote Tuesday on settling litigation with the former operator of a town-owned golf course, despite the objections of Supervisor Laura Gillen.
Gillen, a Democrat, has said revelations about Nassau GOP chairman Joseph Cairo's ties to the contractor merit postponing the $85,000 settlement.
Gillen cited Cairo's connections to contractor Double Eagle Golf in an Oct. 25 affidavit filed in the town's legal battle with the company. Double Eagle had a town contract to manage the Lido Beach Golf Course from 1997 until 2017, when the contract expired and Hempstead retook control of the course.
Double Eagle sued the town in May 2017, arguing in part that the town owed it $776,400 for capital improvements it carried out following superstorm Sandy in 2012. The town countersued, saying the company was contractually obligated to cover such costs. The two sides reached a settlement in April, but the town board has not yet voted on the deal.
In the affidavit, Gillen said Double Eagle paid a company called the McCormick Group, whose chief executive is Cairo, $922,800 from 1999 to 2014. She said his ties to Double Eagle were similar to his connections to Dover Gourmet Corp., another Hempstead Town contractor that paid Cairo for work related to a town-owned facility, Malibu Beach Park. Dover's operations in the town are now facing scrutiny from federal law enforcement.
“Like the Malibu vendor situation, it seems that the Nassau County Republican Chairman is receiving payouts from vendors for whom he helped secure contracts,” Gillen said in the affidavit.
Court records show Cairo's involvement with Double Eagle was disclosed in the lawsuit last year, prior to the settlement. Asked in an interview why she was only now scrutinizing the issue, Gillen said she had not previously been aware that Cairo was a Double Eagle consultant.
Cairo, a former Hempstead councilman, said he consulted Double Eagle on “business decisions and transactions.”
“Nothing unethical was done,” he said. “I represented them at a time when I had no relationship with the town.”
Cairo said Gillen’s affidavit was "purely political," noting it was filed less than two weeks before she sought reelection Nov. 5. It was “a last-minute attempt to muddy the waters," he said.
Gillen narrowly lost her reelection bid last week to Republican challenger Don Clavin, the town's receiver of taxes, according to unofficial results. Clavin has declared victory, but Gillen has not conceded, with absentee ballots still to be counted.
Double Eagle partner Lucien Clerico referred questions to his attorney, Joshua Hecht, who declined to comment.
Cairo became the Nassau County Republican Committee chairman in May 2018 after serving for more than a decade as vice chairman. He said he “wasn’t especially involved” in helping Double Eagle respond to the original request for proposals to operate the golf course in 1997, and was not involved in negotiating Double Eagle’s contract with the town.
The company sued Hempstead in May 2017, saying it had carried out more than $1.5 million in repairs on the course after Sandy in 2012, but the town had offset only $800,000, according to court records. The town countersued the controlling members of Double Eagle in July 2017, arguing the original contract placed responsibility for capital improvements on Double Eagle, but the company had let the facility deteriorate.
In another affidavit, former Hempstead Comptroller John Mastromarino said the company accumulated $661,000 in delinquent rental fees by 2016, and paid a discounted settlement of $362,900. Double Eagle said the town forewent “the collection of licensing fees” from 2013 through part of 2017 to offset its capital improvement expenses.
The sides reached a settlement in April in state Supreme Court in Nassau County in which the town would pay Double Eagle $85,000, according to court records.
In a 2018 deposition, Double Eagle principal Angelo Belli said Cairo served as the company’s attorney from 1997 until 2016.
In 1994, the New York State Bar Association forced Cairo to surrender his law license after he admitted diverting $394,000 from the escrow accounts of two clients. He did not face criminal charges and said his license was reinstated in 2007.
Cairo said Belli was incorrect. “Angelo used that term improperly,” he said. “I was a consultant.”
In a January 2019 deposition, Clerico said Cairo originally approached him about applying to operate the golf course.
“Joe Cairo comes to me and says to me, 'Look, the Lido Beach Golf Course is gonna go out for proposal. Would you be interested?' I’m making $40,000 a year. How do I even qualify to be involved in a golf course? Well, he said, 'Do you have any friends that might be interested?' That’s how it all started.”
Clerico also said the company did not have experience operating golf courses, although Belli said in his deposition that he previously had done construction on some courses.