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Rob Walker sought donations from Nassau County vendors

Rob Walker, chief deputy to Nassau County Executive

Rob Walker, chief deputy to Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano, leaves the federal courthouse in Manhattan after testifying in the Dean Skelos corruption trial on Dec. 4, 2015. Credit: John Roca

Nassau Chief Deputy County Executive Rob Walker sought donations from county vendors two months before he testified during a federal corruption trial that he is under investigation for allegedly awarding county contracts to campaign contributors.

Records show the majority of the companies that sponsored a golf outing run by Walker’s Hicksville Republican Committee on Sept. 24 had business with Nassau over the past six years.

County vendors provided at least 87 percent of the $58,350 pledged by 68 companies listed as sponsors on signs posted at the club’s annual fundraiser in Bethpage State Park.

The signs were photographed by then-county legislative candidate Dean Hart, a Democrat, who picketed the outing to protest “pay-to-play” politics. Hart emailed the photographs to Newsday on the day of the event.

The signs also list individuals, families, unions and restaurants as sponsors of the outing, which in part benefited the campaign of Walker’s mother, Rose Marie Walker, a Republican county legislator from Hicksville who subsequently won re-election.

Invitations indicate there were eight levels of sponsorship, from $2,750 for a “titanium” sponsor to $200 for “hole” sponsors. A ticket to play golf cost $250.

All of the companies or their principals that appear as “Titanium Sponsors” have done business with the county. None returned calls for comment.

A final tally of contributions made that day to the Hicksville committee, which is run by Walker, do not have to be disclosed until the next state-required filing date of Jan. 15.

Earlier this month, during the federal corruption trial of former State Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, a Republican, and his son, Adam, Walker testified under a grant of immunity about a county contract awarded to AbTech Industries, a company that employed Adam Skelos. Walker acknowledged the immunity did not cover a separate federal corruption probe.

The prosecutor asked Walker, “Do you understand that you’re being investigated in part related to county contracts given to some of your political campaign contributors?”

Walker responded, “Yes I do.”

Dean Skelos’ attorney, Robert Gage, subsequently asked Walker, “why don’t you describe for me what you understand” the investigation to be.

Walker said, “Well, from what I understand it’s about campaign contributions, that contractors received work because of that.”

Skelos and his son were convicted.

Sources say one of the county contracts under investigation is a $12 million deal for storm cleanup with VIP Splash Waterways Recovery Group, which gave $2,925 to the Hicksville Republican Committee in 2014 on the same day Walker executed the agreement.

Walker’s lawyer, Brian Griffin, said his client “has never steered any contract to anyone in return for a contribution and in fact, Nassau County’s procurement process requires several independent layers of approval. All contributions were ethically and lawfully made and of course fully disclosed to the state board of elections. As has always been the case, Mr. Walker has done nothing wrong, has been fully transparent and has nothing to hide.”

He noted that the law “clearly allows campaign contributions from any person or entity that wants to donate, including contractors.”

A spokesman for Rose Walker’s campaign committee said it has fully complied with the law.

Hart, who called for a ban on political donations from county vendors during his unsuccessful campaign, said, “It’s offensive, but not at all surprising, that Rob Walker still has a cushy job in the county executive’s office, given the current administration’s complete disregard for any sort of meaningful ethics reforms.”

Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano has proposed that vendors report political contributions made to county candidate campaign committees but not those made to political clubs such as the Hicksville committee.

While no charges have ever been filed against Walker or his committee, Nassau Democratic chairman Jay Jacobs has filed three complaints with state officials about alleged irregularities in committee fundraising.

State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman inquired about the committee’s 2012 purchase of a MetLife Stadium skybox, and the chief enforcement officer for the state Board of Elections this summer requested all of the Hicksville committee’s financial reports since 2010, when Mangano first took office.

A Newsday analysis of state campaign finance records in 2014 showed the Hicksville committee received nearly $800,000 in donations from mid-2010 through 2013, after raising a total of only $152,149 in the previous five years. Almost two-thirds of the 48 companies or their principals that had given the Hicksville club at least $3,000 since mid-2010 had done business with the county in that period.

Federal prosecutors for the Eastern District U.S. attorney’s office had no comment.

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