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Suffolk DA Investigates Towns Sandy Cleanup

District Attorney launches probe into how Brookhaven and Islip spent federal funding, contractors hiring and payment.

The Suffolk County District Attorney has served grand jury subpoenas to Islip and Brookhaven officials as part of an investigation into how the towns spent taxpayer dollars cleaning up after Sandy. 

Newsday reported that Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota confirmed his office began investigating several town governments in early February. Criminal investigators served subpoenas to the Town of Islip on March 12 and to Brookhaven officials on Monday.

Mike Walsh, deputy town attorney for Islip, said the town provided Suffolk prosecutors with documents after receiving the subpoena. 

"I don't know exactly what they are looking for," he told Newsday. "It seems like they're making sure the contractor was paying prevailing wage, but that would be speculation on my part."

"The town is cooperating and we welcome the oversight of the DA's office," said Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine.  

Suffolk prosecutors are investigating how the cleanup funding was spent, how contractors were chosen and whether state laws governing how governments picks contractors were followed in the aftermath of the storm. 

Federal records show that Long Island towns, villages and counties have undertaken Sandy-related projects totaling $247.5 million as of this week, with FEMA reimbursing $178.1 million so far.

Islip officials have spent approximately $12.7 million on debris removal after Sandy, with Federal Emergency Management Agency committing to repay the town $9.5 million. Brookhaven has spent approximately $8.28 million on debris removal after Sandy, with FEMA committing to repay the town $6.2 million.

The state's Department of Labor requires that contractors and subcontracts pay their employees the prevailing wages and benefits set out for workers under a public contract. Pay rates are set by law and vary from county to county. The law also requires that all contracts made between a government entity, such as a town, and a contractor contain full rate schedules. 

Falsifying payroll records can carry a maximum penalty of 1 to 3 years in prison. Failure to pay proper wages, depending on the amount, can be a felony crime carrying a penalty of 5 to 15 years in prison. 

Read more on Newsday [subscription required]. 

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