The former CEO of an insurance company that hired Adam Skelos at the behest of Skelos' powerful father testified on Monday he didn't dare fire the younger Skelos, despite his poor work performance, for fear of alienating then-State Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos.
Anthony Bonomo, who ran Physicians’ Reciprocal Insurers until last year, said within days of joining the Roslyn company Adam Skelos began not showing up to work and threatened to “smash in” his immediate supervisor’s head when he inquired about Adam’s irregular work.
Still, Bonomo, 60, of Woodbury, testified Monday that he didn't consider firing Adam Skelos from his $78,000-a-year sales job. At the time, Dean Skelos held sway over several bills before the state Senate that were essential to the survival of PRI, according to testimony.
“I didn’t want Adam’s problem to become a wedge to our legislative pursuits up in Albany. I just didn’t want to have a problem with the senator,” said Bonomo, who is testifying for the federal government under an agreement that he will not be prosecuted.
He told the jury in Manhattan federal court that Adam Skelos complained to Dean Skelos about his first days at PRI. The senator then called Bonomo.
“I told him that Adam wasn’t coming in …that he just wasn’t being a good employee,” Bonomo said, referring to a January 2013 conversation with Dean Skelos. “He was still upset about the whole thing and told me to work it out. I took it to mean that I had to find a way for this situation to work out” for Adam Skelos, the insurance executive said.
Bonomo, under questioning from prosecutor Douglas Zolkind, acknowledged that the younger Skelos’ behavior should have cost him his job.
“Did you consider firing Adam Skelos?” asked Zolkind.
“No, it just didn’t seem to be a viable option,” responded Bonomo.
The insurance executive eventually shifted Adam Skelos to a telemarketing job in late 2013, where he earned $36,000 annually for making 100 phone calls per week to doctors about purchasing malpractice insurance.
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 Skelos 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.
Earlier Monday, Bonomo, the insurance executive, testified it took Adam Skelos more than three months to apply for the sales job at Physicians’ Reciprocal Insurers even though Dean Skelos repeatedly asked for help for his son, who allegedly was in dire financial straits.
Bonomo said Adam did not call him about a job until December 2012 even though Dean Skelos had asked Bonomo to assist his son in August 2012 at the Saratoga Race Course in upstate Saratoga Springs.
“He told me that Adam was having trouble holding a job,” Bonomo said, referring to an August conversation with Dean Skelos at the thoroughbred horseracing track. “He [Adam] was looking for something to do. He needed health benefits.”
Prior to being hired by PRI, Adam Skelos earned $272,813 from four employers in 2012.
Besides his insurance business, Bonomo is a former leader of the New York Racing Association, the state agency that operates the Saratoga, Belmont Park and Aqueduct horseracing venues. He also is part owner of Always Dreaming, who won last year’s Kentucky Derby.
As the prosecution questioned Bonomo, the estranged wife of former U.S. Sen. Alfonse D’Amato took notes in the first row of spectators’ benches.
Later, Katuria D’Amato said she would return Tuesday to see her husband testify for the prosecution as a way “to protect my children” in the couple’s ongoing custody fight. The Lido Beach couple are divorcing.
“I wanted to come hear what the testimony looked like,” she said outside the courthouse where she once worked as a judge’s clerk.
The retrial continues Tuesday.