“Ed had never managed anything. He was not town supervisor or mayor, and some felt [Mangano] should’ve brought in somebody who had done that,” said an expert in Nassau County politics who asked not to be identified so as not to offend the county executive. “Rob was an assemblyman; you don’t manage anything as an assemblyman.
” Multiple sources with knowledge of the inner working of county politics contend that the power dynamic between Mangano and Walker is this: Mangano is the figurehead for the county, the public official who attends the ribbon cuttings and public events, while Walker pulls the strings behind the scenes. As Mangano’s co-pilot and top deputy, Walker appears to be utilizing his network of connections to wealthy and connected donors to fill the Hicksville Republican Club’s coffers.
Many of the people who have contributed to the club include individuals who have had long-standing relationships with Nassau County, some of whom are employed by the county or who have been contracted by it to provide various services. In April 2012, Aly and Keith Lizza-vice president and general manager, respectively, of Carlo Lizza & Sons Pavingcontributed a total of $90,000 to the Hicksville committee. Their company later received $4 million in contracts from the county to assist in tree removal and other miscellaneous post-Sandy work.
The single largest donation to the club in 2012 was $50,000 from James Hagedorn, the CEO of Scott’s Miracle-Gro and a board member, along with Walker, of the Friends of Sands Point Preserve, which manages the property. In a report by Newsday in September 2012, Hagedorn indicated he was aware that Hicksville planned to use his contribution to help purchase the luxury box at Giants Stadium, saying he thought it was a smart way to “build financial horsepower.”
Other large contributions to the committee include $10,000 from former MTA and Port Authority board member David Mack, currently the assistant Nassau police commissioner, and $25,000 from Donald Codignotto, whose brother, Robert, is also an assistant police commissioner with the county. The committee also received $10,000 from Joanne Smith, a secretary and treasurer of Standard Valuation Services who is married to its president, Matthew Smith.
Standard Valuation Services is a property appraisal company that has been contracted several times by Nassau County since 2010, the year Mangano took office. Frank Intagliata, an employee with the county Office of Purchasing, contributed $4,000, while Michael Sposato, the acting Nassau County sheriff, contributed $3,500 to the Hicksville club. With the exception of Mack and Codignotto, none of these donors returned phone calls from City & State.
When asked about the nature of his relationship with the committee and his reason for his contribution, Codignotto responded, “No comment.” Mack, who now runs a real estate company based in New Jersey, said that his contribution wasn’t solicited by Mangano or Walker, and that “there was a cause involved,” though one he could not recall. “It has nothing to do with [Mangano’s] campaign, not at all,” Mack said. “I wasn’t solicited for it.
I heard they were raising money. You can see I give a lot of money to a lot of different friends. They were shocked and thanked me very much, and that’s it. I hope Mangano wins.” These donors were not the only ones with problematic ties to Mangano. An Associated Press report found that Friends of Ed Mangano received $144,000 in donations from Sandy contractors in the weeks after they were hired by Nassau County. Many of the companies that gave to Mangano’s campaign also contributed $6,000 to the Hicksville committee, and some of these companies’ high-ranking employees have close familial relations with county officials.
For instance, Dejana Industries, a sanitation fi m, gave $12,575 to Mangano’s campaign, and a subsidiary, Dejana Truck and Equipment Company, gave $550 to the Hicksville committee. Mangano’s brother, John Mangano Jr., is the director of business development and municipal sales director for Dejana Industries. Dejana was one of the county’s Sandy contractors, receiving $36,288 for a “fuel truck rental.”
Among the other contractors that contributed to the Hicksville club was Nelson & Pope Engineers, a surveying and engineering firm that previously employed Walker as a project manager and currently employs Walker’s wife, Elizabeth, as an administrative assistant. On September 12 of last year, Nelson & Pope made separate contributions of $425 and $700 to the Hicksville club. The firm also contributed $5,895 to Friends of Ed Mangano from 2010 to 2012.
After Sandy hit in late October, Nelson & Pope received a $400,000 contract to assist in tree and debris removal at various sites throughout the county. Grace Industries, a company that services roads and highways, donated $1,000 to Hicksville and $13,000 to Mangano, while the company’s chairman, William Haugland, also made a $2,612 inkind contribution that was not itemized in Mangano’s filings. Grace Industries received two contracts for Sandy cleanup totaling $8 million.
John and Anthony Gulino, owners of surveying and engineering company Laser Industries, gave a $13,000 in-kind contribution to Mangano, as well as $1,000 to the Hicksville club. Laser Industries received up to $6 million in contracts for Sandy work, according to the Associated Press. Yet another company, 192 Branch Interior Services, gave only $150 to the Hicksville committee but $5,000 to Friends of Ed Mangano.
The company was awarded a $1 million contract to assist in the removal and disposal of water from various sites in the county. No one from these companies responded to requests for comment. Lastly, between 2011 and 2012 CSM Engineering contributed $5,375 to Friends of Ed Mangano, and $600 to the Hicksville committee in 2012. The firm is owned by Carolyn Shah Moehringer, sister of Shila Shah-Gavnoudias, the commissioner of the Nassau County Department of Public Works, the body responsible for procuring contracts for the design, construction, repair, maintenance and cleaning of all the streets and bridges in the county.
CSM was one of the companies to receive an emergency contract for tree and debris removal after Sandy, in the amount of $250,000. In response to an inquiry from City & State, Shah-Gavnoudias wrote in a statement that recovering from Sandy “was the chief factor in securing all contracts necessary to restoring functionality and safety to Nassau County.” She should have recused herself in procuring the contract for CSM, she added. “In retrospect, while I recused myself from the technical selection committee I regret any impression created by the signing of a procedural routing slip and Comptroller Approval Form for CSM Engineering,” read Shah-Gavnoudias’ statement.