Calls from New York State Sen. Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) were offered to help land contracts for a company that hired his son, according to evidence heard Monday at the senator and son’s corruption trial at Manhattan federal court.
Bjornulf White, the former vice president of AbTech Industries, testified that Adam Skelos, the senator’s son, told him that his father would call Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano if the county Department of Public Works (DPW) commissioner didn’t return Adam’s calls for an update on the status on AbTech’s proposal to install storm water filters in county drainage pipes. At the time, Adam was an AbTech consultant.
“Will have my father call [Mangano] this Thursday if I don’t hear back from” Sheila Shah, the Nassau DPW commissioner, Adam emailed White on April 30, 2012, according to email evidence prosecutors read in court.
Arizona-based AbTech is one of three companies that the former state Senate Majority Leader allegedly coerced $300,000 in bribes from in the form of no-show jobs that his son, Adam, was unqualified for in exchange for illegally manipulating legislation. Both men deny the accusations.
When Adam asked his dad’s senate staff for an update on pitching AbTech’s services in Suffolk County, Adam was told a call from the senator would help, according to an email read in court.
In an email exchange dated Nov. 9, 2012, Adam asked Thomas LaCascio, director of the senator’s district office, if there was “any word on Suffolk,” and LaCascio replied: “One step at a time. Haha. Your dad prob needs to make a call.”
The emails were read aloud for the jury while prosecutors conducted their direct examination of White as the trial against the Skeloses entered its third week.
Like AbTech CEO Glenn Rink, who testified before him, White said he was “shocked” and found it “inappropriate” when the company got an email from Charlie Durego, general counsel and senior vice president at New Hyde Park-based developer Glenwood Management Corp., demanding a hefty raise for Adam. Durego has said he got Adam a job at AbTech in order to appease the senator’s request to find his son work, as well as to satisfy Glenwood’s desire to avoid doing business directly with the son of the senator whom they were lobbying. Durego had told AbTech that Adam wanted a 4-percent cut of the $12 million contract—$480,000, according to other emails read in court. White testified that the request—and its questionable timing just as the county was considering AbTech’s contract bid—strained his relationship with Rink, his boss, because White did not think the son was worth it. Rink acquiesced to Durego.
Explaining his interpretation of Durego’s email, White testified, “I thought he meant it was basically a threat to interfere with the process and hurt AbTech’s chances” of landing the Nassau contract. “If AbTech increases his pay and takes care of Adam, his father will take care of AbTech.” White said that Rink had told him of the message that Rink had separately received from Durego.
Raising Adam’s pay from $4,000 monthly to $10,000 monthly despite Adam only securing one contract—not the six that would trigger such a raise under his contract—was AbTech’s compromise to Adam’s demand, delivered through Durego, for nearly a half million dollars.
After the Nassau County Legislature and Nassau Interim Finance Authority approved AbTech’s contract, Mangano touted it at a press conference, where White met with Adam’s contact, Chief Deputy Nassau County Executive Rob Walker. White testified that shortly afterwards Walker told him that Nassau would allocate $400,000 to install AbTech’s smart sponge storm drain filter at one outfall pipe near the Bay Park Sewage Treatment Plant. White said he was taken aback, because AbTech had a contract to install the devices on 10 pipes and a cost analysis had yet to be done. The total project was worth $12 million.
“I told him that I’m not comfortable with this random number,” White testified that he told Walker. “This was sort of backwards. They were just throwing a number out there, and I had no idea if it would cover the cost.”
White is expected to continue testifying Tuesday, the day after former state Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) was convicted of charges in a similar but unrelated corruption case also in Manhattan federal court.
In response to the news that Silver, his former counterpart in Albany, had been convicted, the senator told reporters outside the courthouse: “My case is what I’m focused on.”