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Groups seek explanation of Sandy contracts

Debris from superstorm Sandy is dumped at a

Debris from superstorm Sandy is dumped at a temporary collection site at Nickerson Beach Park. (Nov. 28, 2012) Credit: Charles Eckert

Nassau Democrats joined park and labor advocates Monday to press Republican lawmakers to invite County Comptroller George Maragos to explain his review of Sandy-related county contracts.

"There is a lot of money coming into Nassau County related to superstorm Sandy and we need strong oversight of this process," Charlene Obernauer, executive director of Long Island Jobs with Justice, told members of the Republican-controlled Rules Committee.

"Add our voice to the call for this legislative body to get the Nassau comptroller here to explain what's going on," said Bruce Piel, chairman of PARCnassau. He noted his park advocacy group had been among the first to raise alarms about tree cutting in county preserves after the storm.

The demands came after the administration of County Executive Edward Mangano asked the Rules Committee of the county legislature to approve contract amendments -- one to increase funding and the other to expand services -- for two Sandy contractors.

Maragos last week said he was requesting payroll and expense information from the largest Sandy contractors, including Looks Great Services Inc. of Huntington, which is scheduled to be paid nearly $70 million by Nassau.

County officials say they have not received the usual subcontractor payroll information from Looks Great, a tree and debris removal firm that uses dozens of subcontractors, because the company is working under a purchase order, rather than a public works contract.

In addition, union representatives have questioned whether out-of-state workers were paid required wages.

Three weeks ago, Nassau District Attorney Kathleen Rice's office issued subpoenas to Nassau County and Looks Great seeking documents related to the cleanup work the company did after the October storm, Newsday has reported. Nassau investigators expanded that probe by issuing subpoenas to A-H Construction and Renu Restoration and Contracting.

A Looks Great official has said the firm is cooperating fully with authorities, while a Renu official said that company has never done work for Nassau. Officials with A-H Construction have not responded to calls for comment.

Legislative Presiding Officer Norma Gonsalves (R-East Meadow) said it was premature to ask Maragos to discuss his review. When he concludes it, she said, "we will be advised of his findings in a public session."

Maragos spokesman Jostyn Hernandez said if Gonsalves wants an explanation in public, "that's fine." But Hernandez noted that the requested information is just arriving and that Maragos is restrained from commenting while the criminal investigation is under way. He noted that Maragos has invited all 19 legislators to his office to review claims.

Large contractors Maragos is seeking information from are CDM Smith-Liro JV; R.J. Industries Inc. of Plainview; Posillico Civil Inc. of Farmingdale; and Grace Industries Llc of Plainview.

Other companies sent letters by the comptroller were: Eldor Contracting of Holtsville; Laser Industries Inc. of Ridge; Nelson & Pope Engineers and Surveyors of Melville; Hazen & Sawyer of Manhattan; Carlo Lizza & Sons Paving Inc. of Hicksville; The Landtek Group Inc. of Amityville; 192 Branch Interior Services Inc. of Ronkonkoma; and CSM Engineering P.C. of Uniondale.

The companies either declined to comment or could not be reached.

Meanwhile, Legis. David Denenberg (D-Merrick) asked for the Republican-controlled Public Works and Finance committees to hold public hearings on Sandy projects to determine if contractors are being paid promptly and that taxpayer dollars are not being wasted.

He noted that his questions and those of Legis. Delia DeRiggi-Whitton concerning Sandy contracts had been ruled out of order when the legislature appropriated more than $213 million for storm clean-up because neither sits on the Rules Committee, the only committee that considers contracts.

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