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NY attorney general looking at LI Sandy cleanup contracts, source says

A Nassau County Storm Debris Removal team works

A Nassau County Storm Debris Removal team works to clean flood-damaged items from the Bright Star Country Day School & Camp on Royal Avenue in Oceanside. (Nov. 9, 2012) Credit: Barry Sloan

ALBANY - State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman is investigating emergency contracts awarded to companies doing cleanup work on Long Island after superstorm Sandy, a source familiar with the case said.

The attorney general "has received information and complaints," and has launched an investigation of "contracts on Long Island related to Sandy cleanup and how those contracts were obtained," the source said.

Schneiderman's probe coincides with investigations under way on Long Island by Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice and Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota.

Although few details about Schneiderman's investigation were available, the three probes represent an intense focus on how millions of taxpayers' dollars for cleanup were spent.

Last month, Rice issued subpoenas to Nassau County and Looks Great Services Inc. of Huntington seeking documents related to the cleanup work that company did after the Oct. 29 storm. Later, investigators expanded the inquiry to examine how the county entered into emergency purchase orders with several other firms, as well as what oversight and controls are in place for such orders.

Newsday has reported that Rice's office also issued subpoenas to A-H Construction, the Nassau Department of Public Works, and Renu Restoration and Contracting. A Renu official has said the company never did any work for the county.

A Looks Great spokeswoman has said the company, headed by Kristian Agoglia, has complied with all state laws and regulations and is complying with all government agencies.

Meanwhile, in Suffolk, Spota has subpoenaed three towns about how cleanup dollars were spent. Brookhaven, Islip and Babylon officials have confirmed receipt of the grand jury subpoenas and said they would cooperate. Newsday has reported that Spota's investigation will widen into at least two more towns: Huntington and Smithtown.

Under the subpoenas, municipal officials must produce records kept to comply with state labor law on "prevailing wage" provisions and whether workers were paid legal wages, the sources have told Newsday. The sources also said the investigation is focusing on the political process used in selecting debris-removal contractors.

The state Department of Labor requires that contractors and subcontractors pay the prevailing rate of wage and fringe benefits to all workers under a public-works contract, using the prevailing wage rate set for the locality where the work is being performed, according to the Labor Department's website.

In Nassau, the county selected Looks Great in 2009 as one of four contractors approved for emergency debris removal, officials said. The firm first was used after Tropical Storm Irene in 2011.

After Sandy struck, the company was hired again 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. So far, Nassau has paid Looks Great about $35 million of $68.8 million that the county legislature approved for Sandy cleanup work, county Comptroller George Maragos told Newsday.

Maragos has asked 12 Sandy contractors hired by the county, including Looks Great, for payroll and expense records.

Legis. Delia DeRiggi-Whitton (D-Glen Cove) has raised questions about Looks Great, the county's record-keeping and its control over the work. Union representatives also questioned whether the company paid required wages to its out-of-state crews.

State election records show Agoglia, the head of the company, contributed $15,000 in January to the re-election campaign of Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano, and $1,500 in November.

Records also show that Looks Great has two current contracts with state agencies for tree services: one with the state Department of Transportation ($150,000) and another with Stony Brook University ($249,500).



Three Sandy contract probes


NASSAU COUNTY District Attorney Kathleen Rice, starting last month, issued subpoenas to at least three companies and to the county.

SUFFOLK COUNTY District Attorney Thomas Spota's office sent grand-jury subpoenas to three towns -- Brookhaven, Islip and Babylon. Sources said the probe also will look at two others: Huntington and Smithtown.NEW YORK STATE Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman is investigating contracts awarded to companies doing Sandy cleanup work on Long Island.

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