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Another round of subpoenas for Sandy cleanup work in Suffolk

Houses on Fire Island Avenue in Babylon Village

Houses on Fire Island Avenue in Babylon Village are flooded due to superstorm Sandy sweeping through Long Island. (Oct. 30, 2012) Credit: Jessica Rotkiewicz

Five Suffolk towns have been hit with another round of subpoenas seeking information about the selection process for Sandy cleanup work and copies of emergency declarations the towns made that enabled them to skip usual bidding requirements.

Officials from the five towns -- Babylon, Brookhaven, Huntington, Islip and Smithtown -- Monday confirmed they were each served the subpoena Friday and said they were cooperating with the ongoing investigation by the Suffolk County district attorney's office.

The latest grand jury subpoena -- the second served on Babylon, Brookhaven, Huntington and Smithtown in recent weeks -- gives the towns until Friday to comply. It is the third subpoena served on Islip, which was the first to be served, on March 12.

That subpoena sought, among other documents, records municipal officials must keep to show compliance with state labor law. A follow-up subpoena was served April 12 seeking more records, Islip officials have said.

The district attorney's office is investigating whether local governments awarded lucrative cleanup work to favored contractors and whether proper wages and benefits were paid for the work. Last week, the Federal Emergency Management Agency said its reimbursement to Long Island's towns, villages, counties and certain nonprofits for cleanup and rebuilding had almost topped $300 million.

Robert Clifford, spokesman for District Attorney Thomas Spota, declined to comment on the latest subpoenas.

Under New York State Executive Law, once the governor has declared a state of emergency, town supervisors and county executives can make local state of emergency declarations that enable them to temporarily suspend local laws -- including those relating to competitive bidding requirements -- or any other regulations that could hinder storm response.

The suspensions can take effect for up to a maximum of five days, but may be extended in five-day increments.

The Town of Babylon, for example, declared a state of emergency Oct. 28, which is still in effect and is being renewed every five days as recovery operations continue, town spokesman Kevin Bonner said. After Sandy, the town suspended normal bidding requirements for 15 days.

In Smithtown, Town Attorney John Zollo said the town was working to comply with the new subpoena. Brookhaven Town Attorney Annette Eaderesto said among documents sought are emails to and from the town regarding selection of contractors who provided post-Sandy services. Huntington Town spokesman A.J. Carter and Islip Town Attorney Rob Cicale said their towns also were cooperating fully.

The Suffolk investigation is one of several under way related to Sandy recovery efforts. Subpoenas have also been served by the Nassau district attorney, who is looking into the process by which Sandy cleanup contracts were awarded, and how the work was performed.

Separately, the state attorney general's office is investigating Sandy contracts awarded on Long Island; the Office of the Inspector General for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security is investigating public works projects in the New York-New Jersey region; the U.S. Department of Labor is looking into potential wage and payroll violations in federal contracts, and the New York State Department of Labor confirmed Thursday it has investigations under way in connection with Sandy cleanup on Long Island.

With Carl MacGowan

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