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Dean Skelos held company 'hostage' when asking for son's raise, witness says

Dean Skelos, left, and his wife, Gail, leave

Dean Skelos, left, and his wife, Gail, leave federal court in Manhattan during his retrial on June 19.  Credit: Charles Eckert

Witness: Skelos held firm 'hostage' for son's raiseFormer State Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos and son Adam held “hostage” an environment company, pressuring it to significantly raise the younger Skelos’ pay, a company executive testified Wednesday.

Bjornulf White, Adam Skelos’ boss at AbTech Industries Inc., said that in 2013 Dean Skelos requested an increase in his son’s monthly consulting fee of $4,000. The senator made the request through an executive at real estate developer Glenwood Management, whose owners were large investors in AbTech.

White said Wednesday that AbTech raised Adam Skelos’ monthly fee to $10,000 — over White's strenuous objections — because the Glenwood executive said Dean Skelos could help pass legislation that AbTech wanted.

White, who is testifying in Manhattan federal court for the federal government in return for not being prosecuted, recounted multiple conversations that he had with AbTech CEO Glenn Rink about hiking the monthly payment to Adam Skelos.

The CEO “said Charlie Dorego had told him it was important to comply with the request to pay Adam Skelos” more, White said. “Charlie had told him, if AbTech took care of Adam, in the future, Senator Skelos could be helpful to AbTech.”

Dorego, senior vice president and general counsel at Glenwood Management in New Hyde Park, told the jury earlier this week that he arranged for AbTech to hire Adam Skelos in response to Dean Skelos’ repeated requests.

Dorego, who grew up in Sag Harbor, also helped the younger Skelos negotiate better payment terms in his 2012 consulting contract with AbTech, a manufacturer of storm-water treatment systems, according to testimony.

Dorego, a key witness for the prosecution in the Skelos’ retrial, testified earlier that he feared Dean Skelos, then the state’s top Republican would scuttle renewal of lucrative tax breaks for developers, such as Glenwood Management, if Adam Skelos was not assisted.

Wednesday, White also said he was “outraged” by Dorego’s 2013 request, on behalf of Dean Skelos, to boost Adam’s pay before AbTech had received any money from a contract tied to the younger Skelos.

In 2013, Dorego unsuccessfully lobbied AbTech to pay Adam Skelos a $400,000 fee for its proposed $12 million contract from Nassau County for storm-water sponges. Adam had introduced AbTech to county officials.

“I can’t believe he’s going to try to hold us hostage to renegotiate the contract” for Adam Skelos to serve as an AbTech consultant, White wrote in a 2013 email to the AbTech CEO.

The Skeloses are accused of using Dean Skelos’ position as one of state government’s three most powerful individuals to secure jobs and payments for Adam. In return, Dean promised to back legislation needed by those helping his son, according to the indictment.

The retrial comes after the Skeloses’ 2015 convictions were reversed because of a later U.S. Supreme Court decision, which more narrowly defined the kind of quid pro quo bribery scheme a public official must engage in to be convicted of bribery. The high court said a public official must do more than make a telephone call or arrange a meeting.

Dean Skelos, 70, and Adam Skelos, 35, both have denied wrongdoing and pleaded not guilty.

The Rockville Centre pair are accused of multiple quid pro quo schemes with three businesses that paid Adam Skelos hundreds of thousands of dollars. Each company needed Dean Skelos’ vote for key bills before the Senate.

Later Wednesday, White, Adam’s boss at AbTech, testified that he feared the Skeloses would derail the company if Adam wasn’t made happy.

“They had a very close relationship with Nassau County officials,” White said. “They could basically shut something down with a phone call.”

When AbTech officials thought Nassau was going too slowly on a project in East Rockaway, Dean Skelos called then-County Executive Edward Mangano to ask what was going on.

“Somebody feels like they are getting jerked around for the last two years,” Dean Skelos told Mangano in a 2015 wiretapped telephone call played for the jury. The county executive then tried to reassure the senator that the AbTech deal was on track.

Adam Skelos wasn’t satisfied, telling his AbTech boss in another recorded conversation: “Ed will call [Dean Skelos] and ask for favors. . . . After they haven’t helped us with what we needed – it’s not going to happen.”

The retrial continues Thursday.

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