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Nassau DA Rice expands Sandy cleanup contract probe

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 District Attorney Kathleen Rice has expanded an investigation into how county officials entered into emergency contracts with companies doing cleanup work after superstorm Sandy, a law enforcement source said Thursday.

More than three weeks ago, investigators for the district attorney issued subpoenas to the county and Looks Great Services Inc. of Huntington seeking documents related to $70 million in cleanup work that company did after the October storm, the source said.

Now investigators have expanded their probe to examine how the county entered into emergency purchase orders with several other firms, as well as what oversight and controls are in place on such orders, the law enforcement source said Thursday.

Rice's office also has issued subpoenas to A-H Construction, the Nassau Department of Public Works and Renu Restoration and Contracting, according to two sources close to the case. These subpoenas involve prevailing wage or contractual complaints, the sources said.

District attorney investigators are also interviewing workers who assisted with the storm relief efforts, the law enforcement source said.

The district attorney's office would not confirm an investigation. However, district attorney spokesman John Byrne said anyone with information regarding contractor abuse is invited to call his office.

County Attorney John Ciampoli Thursday would not confirm or deny that Nassau had received any subpoenas.

Looks Great was hired by the county for tree removal and to haul away debris, including storm debris from Long Beach that had been dumped at Nassau's Nickerson Beach.

County officials say they do not have the names or payroll information for Looks Great subcontractors because the company is working under a purchase order rather than a public works contract. The county charter requires public works contractors to submit subcontractor payroll, including rates of pay and names of employees, before the county comptroller approves payment.

The county does not have any record of direct contracts with A-H Construction or Renu Restoration and Contracting, but officials have said that Looks Great manages 40 to 58 subcontractors.

A source with knowledge of the subcontractor list said A-H Construction was a subcontractor for Looks Great. The business information company Dun & Bradstreet lists the Mill Neck-based firm's executives as Troy Holbrooke and Marc Underberg.

Renu Restoration and Contracting is based out of Copiague. According to Dun & Bradstreet, the company's president is Charles Colletti. Company vice president Michael Vandenburg said the firm did residential and commercial building renovations and had never worked for Nassau County in its 14-year history, neither in its own right nor as a subcontractor.

For months, Legis. Delia DeRiggi-Whitton (D-Glen Cove) has been questioning county public works officials about Looks Great, the county's record-keeping and its control over the work. Union representatives have also questioned whether Looks Great paid required wages to its out-of-state crews.

Looks Great spokeswoman Risa Heller could not be reached Thursday. But she has said the company has a "policy of fully complying with any laws and regulations applicable to our contract work as well as responding to any lawful and proper request of any cognizant governmental entity for information."

Nassau has paid Looks Great about $35 million of $68.8 million, according to county Comptroller George Maragos. Nassau selected Looks Great in 2009 as one of four contractors approved for emergency debris removal, officials said. The firm first was put to work after Tropical Storm Irene in 2011 and then was hired after Sandy, officials have said.

Maragos has asked 12 Sandy contractors hired by Nassau, including Looks Great, for payroll and expense records. A spokesman said this week that Maragos contacted the firms before he learned of the Rice investigation.

With Sarah Crichton

and Celeste Hadrick

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