About 30 GOP officials from the Island have said they...

About 30 GOP officials from the Island have said they are refusing to work with embattled Rep. George Santos. Credit: Getty Images / Win McNamee via TNS

Constituents trying to reach Rep. George Santos got a surprise Thursday morning when telephone calls to his embattled office were mass-forwarded to the Huntington headquarters of fellow freshman GOP Rep. Nick LaLota — also a surprise to LaLota’s team.

By midafternoon, the problem appeared to have been fixed, according to LaLota spokeswoman Lauren Lembo, but the mystery remained over why it happened at all. LaLota’s team was forced to field calls meant for Santos’ office — many unhappy with their new House representative and his mushrooming scandals — who didn’t keep their opinions to themselves.

“People were calling and venting,” Lembo said.

Help for constituents

Congressional offices typically help their own constituents as liaisons to federal agencies, such as for immigration, passports, flag requests and Veterans Affairs.

What to know

  • Telephone calls meant for Rep. George Santos on Thursday instead were forwarded to the Huntington headquarters of fellow freshman GOP Rep. Nick LaLota.
  • It was the latest in a succession of problems that have prevented constituents from reaching Santos.
  • By midafternoon, the problem appeared to have been fixed but the mystery remained over why it happened at all.

A succession of problems has prevented constituents from reaching Santos. On Friday, pressing “#” for constituent services from the phone menu returned callers to that main menu. On Tuesday and Wednesday, pressing “#” directed callers to a nonworking extension. And on Thursday, all those calls went to LaLota’s office.

“Unfortunately, this is not George Santos’ office — or fortunately, depending on your perspective,” said Adam Saccardi, LaLota’s director of constituent services, who answered the calls and often heard an earful in the process.

“Trust me, you’re not the first person to have this happen to them,” Saccardi told one such caller seeking Santos’ office Thursday morning.

“It seems that Santos is having his phones forwarded, and somehow we won the lottery and are getting his calls,” Saccardi said. “So we’ve been working with the House telecom people to undo that, but as you’ve observed, it’s still happening.”

Neither Santos nor his representatives could be reached for comment or explanation. The House of Representatives’ telecom office also couldn’t be reached.

Calls since early January

Lembo said some calls had been misdirected since at least Jan. 3, and she hypothesized that the problem might be due to LaLota’s current office having once belonged to Santos’ predecessor Tom Suozzi before redistricting.

Santos, who represents a swath of Nassau County and parts of eastern Queens, took office at the beginning of January following revelations that he had distorted or outright lied about almost all of his claimed background — his resume, employment history, wealth, religion, family, home, schooling and charity. He’s since been accused of numerous other distortions or scams, including having cheated a disabled veteran and his dying dog and falsely claiming to having been a volleyball star at Baruch College, which has no record of him ever attending.

Earlier this month — weeks after the revelations — about 30 Long Island Republican officials said they would refuse to work with Santos, and directed his constituents to turn elsewhere for help, such as to neighboring Nassau GOP Rep. Anthony D’Esposito, of Island Park.

D’Esposito’s spokesman Matt Capp said Thursday that the office has been getting a steady stream of calls from Santos constituents, but directly, not forwarded.

In an interview, the former chief counsel for the House and Senate ethics committees, Rob Walker, said that the House Ethics Manual regulates just how much help a non-constituent can get from congressional offices that aren’t their representative.

“There are limited ways in which they can help — they can’t help across the board — but there is some flexibility, but it’s limited,” he said.

Capp said that D’Esposito’s office is directing constituents to other offices, such as New York’s senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, for areas where D’Esposito can’t help.

Speaking last week on a YouTube show hosted by Florida GOP Rep. Matt Gaetz, Santos said his constituent services operation was robust.

“You know, we’re fielding calls in the office, already people are asking for, as simple as White House tour tickets,” he said. “Which we’ve already engaged with the White House liaison, we are requesting passport issues and, then all the way to the issue that’s very near and dear in my community, which is we have an organized crime that’s taking carjackings and that’s to a whole new level in my district, which is it’s plaguing a very specific wealthy part of my district, Old Westbury, Brookville, Upper Brookville.”

He added: “I’m here actually trying to fight for the local people the absurdity of saying that George Santos is — and we’re going to redirect the constituents’ requests to another member’s of Congress’ office instead of mine. That’s absurd. And it’s illegal.”

It’s not clear what specifically Santos was claiming to be illegal.

With Laura Figueroa Hernandez

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