Skelos Corruption Trial: Insurer Feared Firing Senator’s Son Would Hurt Lobbying Efforts

Dean and Adam Skelos
Adam Skelos (left) and his father state Sen. Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) are on trial in Manhattan.

An insurance company executive said he feared firing the son of New York State Sen. Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) for not showing up because the senator could block bills the insurer lobbied for.

Anthony Bonomo, chief executive officer of Physicians’ Reciprocal Insurers (PRI), a medical malpractice company, was so scared of ruining his longtime relationship with the senator that he initially did nothing when Adam Skelos only showed up to work twice weekly despite being paid $78,000 annually as a full-time employee starting in January 2012, Bonomo testified Thursday during the senator and son’s corruption trial at Manhattan federal court.

“I did not want to have a problem in Albany,” the 57-year-old Manhasset man testified, recalling the senator getting defensive in a call when Bonomo told Dean about Adam’s failure to show up for work shortly after he started. Bonomo said the senator didn’t respond when told his son was a no-show, but told Bonomo: “Just work this out.”

Roslyn-based PRI 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.

Bonomo, the former chairman of the New York Racing Association (NYRA) that oversees the state’s horse racetracks—he took a leave of absence seven months ago after being contacted by investigators—signed a non-prosecution agreement, along with several other witnesses who’ve testified in the case.

Defense attorneys for Adam and Dean pressed Bonomo for answers about how being convicted of a crime—if he were charged, which he hasn’t been—would effect his business. Bonomo agreed that it would not help his company, which is the second largest medical malpractice insurer in the state with more than 300 employees and $125 million in annual revenue. Robert Gage, the senator’s attorney, also asked Bonomo if Dean ever explicitly said that Adam’s job would be linked to bills Bonomo lobbied, and Bonomo agreed that Dean did not.

But, Bonomo testified that a lobbyist at Park Strategies, one of the four lobbying firms PRI hired, warned him that hiring Adam could impact his lobbying for various state legislation, including bills known as budget extenders that are critical to keeping PRI in business. Park Strategies is owned by former U.S. Sen. Al D’Amato (R-NY), whose annual holiday party is one of the events that Bonomo said Dean told him about regarding Adam’s need for work.

Bonomo testified that the senator didn’t mention that Adam was working for AbTech Industries at the time. When Adam filled out a job application for PRI, he didn’t include the AbTech work, either, according the handwritten document prosecutors showed Bonomo and jurors.

Eventually, Adam and his direct supervisor argued about Adam’s failure to show up, which prompted Bonomo to cut Adam’s pay in about half from his rate as a insurance salesman trainee when Adam was bumped down to a telecommuting telemarketer—a job in which Adam did minimal work, Bonomo testified.

Bonomo is scheduled to continue testifying Friday. Prosecutors said they will likely rest their case Monday. Whether the defense will call any witnesses of their own next week remained unclear Thursday.