Nassau County lawmakers this week delayed consideration of a contract with a local debris hauler after discovering reports of the firm owner's arrest on environmental charges -- but court documents show he ultimately was cleared.
The legislature's Rules Committee had been scheduled to vote Monday on a blanket purchase order the county has with Liotta Bros. Recycling of Island Park to dispose of dirt, concrete and old vegetation. The county entered into the pact in July, but legislative approval is now required, as its cost will exceed $100,000.
When the item came up, Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport) read from a March 2011 news release from Nassau District Attorney Kathleen Rice listing charges filed against Liotta Bros. president Victor Liotta and the firm. The charges included fraud and prohibited disposal of solid waste.
Rice alleged Liotta combined mulch with carcinogens and sold it as "shredded hardwood" for gardens or playgrounds.
"I am not aware of this," a county public works official, Brian Schneider, told the committee. He said the firm had met county requirements to have an active license with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to operate a solid waste facility.
Presiding Officer Norma Gonsalves (R-East Meadow) agreed with Democrats to table the contract pending more details about the criminal case.
Newsday subsequently found court records showing that all charges against Liotta were dismissed in 2013. His company pleaded guilty to a single misdemeanor of illegal dumping and paid a $500 fine.
"I was completely innocent, and anybody in the county who didn't know about this didn't do their homework," Liotta said in a phone interview.
Asked about choosing Liotta's firm, Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano's administration provided a statement from public works spokesman Mike Martino: "The county cannot discriminate against any business under the law if they competitively bid for a project and offer the lowest price."
The administration provided a 2013 letter from Liotta's attorney that said the disposition for Liotta personally meant that "the entire arrest and prosecution shall be deemed a nullity."
"You will be able to truthfully say that you have never been arrested for or convicted of any crime or offense in connection with this matter," attorney Marc C. Gann wrote to Liotta.
Liotta Bros. Recycling has been paid $94,380 this year by the county. The family trucking company, Liotta & Sons Inc., received $347,442 from Nassau since February, the county comptroller's office said.
Since 2006, Liotta & Sons Inc. has made political contributions totaling more than $20,000 to Republicans in Nassau, including the county committee, Hempstead Town and the Island Park-Lido Beach-Point Lookout club, according to the state Board of Elections.