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Hempstead Democrats challenge town Republicans on ethics issues

Hempstead Democrats peppered the town board Tuesday with questions about town lobbying contracts and any possible ties to an environmental company at the center of a federal investigation into state Sen. Dean Skelos and his son.

Hempstead Town officials said they have not had any contracts or proposals with the company, AbTech Industries, and said that the town follows state ethics laws.

Democratic Party members sparred during the meeting with Councilman Anthony Santino, a Republican, who is running for supervisor.

Supervisor Kate Murray, a Republican who is running for Nassau County district attorney, was absent on a scheduled family engagement.

Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) and his son, Adam Skelos, were arrested last week on federal corruption charges, including bribery, extortion and conspiracy related to AbTech's contract with Nassau County. Skelos and his son have denied the charges.

Several Hempstead Democratic Party officials questioned the board following the board's approval of a $2.6 million storm-water contract with the Farmingdale-based Thomas Novelli Contracting Corp. for drainage improvements on Lake Avenue in Merrick. Novelli is not affiliated with AbTech or the Skelos family, officials said.

Santino said the project went to Novelli because the firm was the lowest bidder.

The Hempstead Democratic Party has called on Murray, Santino and Hempstead Republicans to return $30,000 from Skelos in campaign donations since 2006.

Party officials asked the board to pass a specific policy to disclose lobbying contracts with vendors. Hempstead Town Attorney Joe Ra said any questions about specific contracts can be addressed in a Freedom of Information Act request filed with the town.

"The town operates in a very transparent manner," Santino said.

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