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Nassau veterans tribute operated at loss, county attorney says

Blu Chip Marketing president and owner Karin Murphy

Blu Chip Marketing president and owner Karin Murphy Caro in her Bohemia office on July 27, 2011. Credit: Jason Andrew

A Nassau veterans tribute promoted by marketing executive Karin Murphy Caro sold only 43 of the 1,500 American flags that organizers hoped residents would purchase to benefit veterans, a top aide to County Executive Ed Mangano acknowledged this week.

County Attorney Carnell Foskey, a former Mangano parks commissioner, said Friends of Nassau Recreation, a private, nonprofit group that assists the county parks department, had originally purchased the flags at a cost of $2,840 for the Field of Honor event held outside the county executive building in Garden City from October through November in 2013.

A county flier for the event said, “Purchase a flag for $35 in honor of a Veteran.” A county website and Caro said all proceeds would go to veterans and veterans groups.

Foskey said in a memo that total receipts for the sold flags was $1,505, for a net loss of $1,335.

County officials said the remaining 1,457 unsold flags are in the parks department, except for those damaged by the weather, and will be used for future veterans events.

Purchasers of the Field of Honor flags had been directed to make their checks out to the Friends group and send them to an accountant in the parks department. Although Friends has been around since 1980, its agreement to operate on behalf of the county expired in May 2012 and has yet to be renewed. Still, most park activities have continued to require payment to Friends.

County Comptroller George Maragos said in a 2013 audit the Friends had so little documentation of the donations it received that he couldn’t tell if money was missing. He also said that federal prosecutors had subpoenaed Friends records last fall, although he didn’t know what prosecutors were looking for.

Legis. Judy Jacobs (D-Woodbury) had asked Maragos to do another audit of Friends last spring, but Maragos said he stopped working on it when the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York subpoenaed its records. A Maragos spokesman said Wednesday that comptroller lawyers had asked the U.S. attorney’s office for permission to proceed with the audit but have yet to receive a response.

Caro and Mangano have denied a CBS news report that they exchanged sexually suggestive texts. Both claimed their phones had been hacked. Police are investigating.

As parks commissioner, Foskey had recommended the county hire Caro, citing her “unique expertise” in marketing. Caro’s firm, Blu Chip Marketing, received $48,500 in two no-bid contracts, both just under the $25,000 threshold for county legislative approval.

Caro worked on the Field of Honor between her two contracts; her first expired Aug. 30, 2013, and her next contract began Jan. 1, 2014. Foskey said work on the veterans tribute began while Caro was under contract and “the county paid no additional consideration” for her to continue promoting the event.

Caro told Newsday she had purchased and installed the flags.

Jacobs, meanwhile, said she wants more transparency about donations to Friends of Nassau Recreation. “Where did the money go?” Jacobs said. “Who has the money at this point? Who has the paperwork? Who has the paper trail? That’s called transparency. That’s what’s missing.”

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