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Editorial: Put serious scrutiny on Sandy spending

Nassau District Attorney Kathleen Rice has subpoenaed records

Nassau District Attorney Kathleen Rice has subpoenaed records of a Huntington firm scheduled to be paid nearly $70 million by the county for Sandy cleanup work, according to county sources. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Suddenly, everybody wants to take a good look at Looks Great Services. That's understandable, and not just because questions have been raised about the Huntington tree-debris contractor's performance in cleaning up after superstorm Sandy. Every federal penny disbursed by Nassau County to Looks Great Services as part of its $68-million deal must face exacting scrutiny.

A region that badly needs rebuilding can't squander resources, and poor execution could hurt Long Island's chances of getting a 90 percent reimbursement of storm-related costs from the federal government, leaving it with 75 percent instead. Looks Great Services may well have followed all government rules, but concerns raised by local unions that it was paying below prevailing wage and hiring out-of-state crews led to subpoenas in March from Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice. In addition, county Comptroller George Maragos has asked to see documentation on, among other things, payment to several contractors, including Looks Great and its subcontractors. And quite a few North Shore communities are upset, claiming the company unnecessarily cut down healthy trees, including some in Glen Cove's Welwyn Preserve. The company denies the charges.

County officials and Maragos say Looks Great hasn't provided paperwork they would normally get from subcontractors because the company is working under a "purchase order" rather than a contract, and faces less stringent rules. And the fact that Looks Great has contributed more than $10,000 to County Executive Edward Mangano's re-election campaign, and owner Kristian Agoglia personally gave another $16,500, casts suspicion on any irregularity.

Billions of dollars will flow through Long Island to rebuild, and it all needs to be accounted for. A tough look at Looks Great is the kind of oversight that could uncover bad behavior, and deter it too.