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Nassau to stop awarding contracts to indicted Old Bethpage firm

Carlo Lizza and Sons construction equipment in

Carlo Lizza and Sons construction equipment in Old Bethpage on April 8, 2015. Credit: Newsday / Audrey C. Tiernan

Nassau County will stop awarding contracts to Carlo Lizza & Sons Paving Inc. following the indictment of the politically connected firm and its leaders on public corruption charges related to the Town of Oyster Bay.

Old Bethpage-based Lizza & Sons, which has won tens of millions of dollars in resurfacing work in recent years, will be ineligible to bid on future pacts, “unless they are acquitted of the pending charges or the charges are dropped,” said county public works spokeswoman Mary Studdert.

John Carman, Lizza’s Garden City attorney, responded: “The company has contractual rights that do not disappear because criminal charges are filed. As to future bidding, apparently in Nassau County the presumption of innocence does not apply.”

Nassau District Attorney Madeline Singas last week unsealed indictments against eight people with ties to Oyster Bay, including former town supervisor John Venditto, the late former town planning and development commissioner Frederick Ippolito and Carlo Lizza & Sons president and CEO Elia Aly Lizza and his wife, Marisa.

The Lizzas, of Oyster Bay Cove, each are charged with 19 felony counts of bribery, 18 felony counts of rewarding official misconduct, two felony counts of defrauding the government and one misdemeanor conspiracy count.

The company itself is charged with 11 felony counts including bribery. All of the living defendants have pleaded not guilty.

Prosecutors allege Elia and Marisa Lizza paid Ippolito, who previously worked as chief executive of Lizza & Sons, $1.6 million in bribes from 2009 to 2016 to facilitate rezoning of one of the family’s old asphalt plants in Hicksville for construction of a senior housing development.

Ippolito pleaded guilty last year to a single count of federal income tax evasion related to $2 million in unreported consulting fees. He died last month while serving a 27-month prison sentence.

For decades Carlo Lizza & Sons has been a top road paver for Nassau and Oyster Bay. In documents filed with the county, it reported employing 125 people and earning $40 million in annual income.

Over the last 15 years, the Lizza family, led by Elia and Marisa Lizza, have also made nearly $1 million in campaign contributions to Nassau officials of both political parties, including more than $600,000 to the county GOP committee and more than $100,000 each to County Executive Edward Mangano, a Republican, and his predecessor Thomas Suozzi, a Democrat who now serves as a congressman.

Carlo Lizza & Sons Paving has six open contracts with Nassau, but Studdert said all are “at or near completion, with no major construction work pending.” The company has received $54 million in payments from Nassau since 2012, including $7.2 million so far this year, according to the county comptroller’s office.

When the indictments were filed in June, the Lizza firm was set to receive two new Nassau contracts worth $4.2 million. But just three days before the indictments were unsealed, the county legislature’s rules committee skipped over the pacts on its meeting agenda with no explanation.

A spokesman for legislative Presiding Officer Norma Gonsalves (R-East Meadow) said only that lawmakers had “further questions” on the contracts, but a GOP source said “clearly rumor had been floating around” about the charges.

Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport) has voted against Lizza contracts for the past two years, part of Democrats’ objection to the majority’s resistance to its contracting reform suggestions.

He said Thursday that not approving future contracts for the firm was akin to “the corruption alarm clock going off too late for the majority again.”

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