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Nassau seeks $387,000 more for firm that feds are probing

Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano's administration filed the

Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano's administration filed the amendment to its superstorm Sandy debris cleanup agreement with VIP Splash Waterways Recovery Group on Friday, May 27, 2016. Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams, Jr.

Nassau County is seeking to pay $386,642 more to a company whose initial $12.2 million contract is the focus of a federal criminal investigation.

County Executive Edward Mangano’s administration late Friday filed the amendment to its superstorm Sandy debris cleanup agreement with VIP Splash Waterways Recovery Group. The county legislature’s Rules Committee, which approves all contracts, is set to consider the agreement this month.

Island Park-based VIP Splash removed sunken vessels and other debris from South Shore waterways after Sandy. It would be paid under the amendment for already completed work beyond what was covered by the original pact.

As with the first $12.2 million, the new $386,642 payment has been reimbursed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Nassau officials said.

Public Works spokeswoman Mary Studdert said Tuesday that the additional work “was monitored by an independent contractor with the county” and approved by FEMA officials.

Mangano’s chief deputy, Rob Walker, acknowledged in December that prosecutors with the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District were investigating him for awarding contracts to political contributors. Newsday reported the probe centers on the VIP Splash pact, which Walker finalized on the same day in 2014 that the firm gave $2,925 to the Hicksville Republican Committee, which Walker runs.

VIP Splash incorporated as a company two days before the county first solicited bids for the waterways debris removal work, and it was awarded the contract over more experienced bidders.

Walker has denied wrongdoing and has not been charged with any crimes. An Eastern District spokeswoman declined to comment on Tuesday.

Nassau District Attorney Madeline Singas, whose office also launched an investigation into the VIP Splash contract, declined to comment.

Contract documents show the amendment was first requested by public works officials in May 2015, two months after Newsday first reported about the original pact.

As a result of increased public scrutiny of various county contracts, including VIP Splash’s, Nassau now requires vendors to file more detailed disclosures.

In seeking the contract amendment, VIP Splash Secretary Kent Katter answered “no” in December to disclosure questions about whether he or the company had been the subject of any criminal investigations over the last five years.

“However,” he added, “certain VIP Splash Waterways Recovery Group Inc. records have been subpoena’d [sic] by the District Attorney of Nassau County.”

Katter did not respond Tuesday to a call seeking comment.

Presiding Officer Norma Gonsalves (R-East Meadow) said, “We’re giving this amendment the same due diligence we give to every item before us.”

Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport) said he will vote “no” on the amendment and ask the county comptroller to withhold payment from the firm if it’s approved.

“They may have already done the work, but they’re currently being investigated for how they got the contract,” Abrahams said. “To give more money to an entity that could be found to have been involved in some level of wrongdoing just doesn’t make sense.”

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