Last spring, as a brand-new city ferry named in his honor neared completion, former Staten Island borough president Guy Molinari began lobbying officials on behalf of an allegedly mob-tied firm.
Records reveal that Molinari signed up in April as a $25,000-per-month lobbyist to represent Interstate Industrial Corporation, a company owned by two sons of a longtime friend and accused of doing business with the mob. The client is one of at least seven firms that have retained Molinari over the past year to represent their interests before city officials, filings in the City Clerk's office show.
Molinari, long a Republican powerhouse, can rightfully claim to have friends at City Hall. Just as he had for Rudy Giuliani, the ex-beep gave crucial support to Bloomberg in the 2001 election, helping steer an overwhelming 75 percent of the island's voters to the then novice politician. His backing this year could be even more key as Bloomberg faces a potentially troublesome primary election against Tom Ognibene, a popular Queens Republican.
Lobbyists, start your engines
By Tom Robbins
The Guy V. Molinari, the new $40 million boat that joined the Staten Island ferry fleet in late January, is just the most tangible evidence of the mayor's affection. Dedicating the ferry last fall, Bloomberg said he chose the name to convey the "integrity and reliability" of a man who was "Staten Island's favorite son." The mayor also acknowledged a political spin. "When I was thinking about running for mayor, Guy was one of the first people whose advice I sought," the mayor said. "I valued his support in that race and hope to have his support again."
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Molinari, in turn, has been pressing the administration for his own causes. Although he has met with only mixed successthe city's rejection of the allegedly mobbed-up firm was not overturnedrecords show Molinari has parlayed his connections into a lucrative lobbying practice.
His clients include the would-be developers of a massive NASCAR racetrack and shopping mall beside the Goethals Bridge, a developer seeking to build at the former Navy Homeport on the island's north shore, a California company that wants to sell natural gas for city vehicles, and a troubled local hospital facing multimillion-dollar fines. Although not all client fees are disclosed, filings with the city clerk indicate that Molinari and two partners are taking in more than $100,000 per month.
Molinari said customers have sought him out, not the other way around. The reason? "We are good at what we do," he said. Some clients, like Interstate Industrial Corporation, were already friends.
Interstate is the same firm that former city police commissioner Bernard Kerik advocated for while in office, and Molinari told the Voice that he went to bat for the company because he believed that owners Frank and Peter DiTommaso were "good people. I know them since they were kids." Molinari, 76, said that he had spent 40 years playing handball and volleyball with the DiTommasos' father and an uncle at a Mariner's Harbor athletic club the men jointly founded. "We had loads of fun," said Molinari. He is so close to the family, he added, that he was named godfather to a third son, David DiTommaso.
"Guy is a lifelong friend," Interstate president Frank DiTommaso told the Voice. "He knows me and my family intimately. He felt very bad for the way we were treated," he said.
But the agreement Molinari signed on April 29 to represent the DiTommasos was strictly business. The two-page letter called for the Molinari Group, as the former politician's firm is called, to provide "general consulting services" over a one-year period in exchange for a monthly $25,000 retainer plus expenses. At the time, Interstate had been rejected by three separate city agencies that cited a series of company transactions with members of the Gambino crime family. The company had appealed those determinations, but they were upheld by Bloomberg administration officials early last year.
The brothers then turned to Molinari.
"They had an interest in trying to be able to get back in good standing with the City of New York in terms of bidding for future work," he said. "I believe they had a very good record with the city in the past." To that end, Molinari said, he arranged meetings with Bloomberg aides on Interstate's behalf.
On July 14, city officials confirm, Molinari, the DiTommaso brothers, and their lawyers met with Department of Investigation commissioner Rose Gill Hearn and two top aides. Randy Mastro, who served as an anti-mob troubleshooter for the Giuliani administration and who was later hired by the DiTommasos to screen employees and subcontractors, also showed up at the meeting to vouch for the company's current operations. But DOI officials told the DiTommasos that in order to be "rehabilitated" they would have to acknowledge past misdeeds and take on an outside monitor to watchdog all future work.
Molinari said they got the same message at a subsequent meeting with Marla Simpson, the director of the Mayor's Office of Contract Services. "Essentially, we were advised after some time that it was not doable," Molinari said.
What city officials didn't tell Molinari or his clients, however, was that they had already received a preview of information concerning Interstate from a pair of mob informants who were due to take the stand at the murder conspiracy trial of Gambino boss Peter Gotti. One of those witnesses, Michael "Mikey Scars" DiLeonardo, testified in December that he "serviced" the DiTommasos for the Gambino crew, taking payoffs of more than $100,000 to help them avoid using union labor. DiLeonardo said some of the payoffs were laundered through a dirt-hauling firm that he later sold to the DiTommasos for $1.7 million.
Molinari said that after the city's rejection he ceased representing the company, but that he remained a supporter. "We tried our best," he said. "I still believe [the DiTommasos] are very responsible people."
In December, Molinari spoke out in defense of the DiTommasos after it was reported that Kerik had gotten the company to hire his brother and a close pal. But Molinari never mentioned his own paid work on behalf of the company.
For his part, Frank DiTommaso said that the testimony by DiLeonardo and other mob cooperators about his company was false. "There were two guys who said some derogatory things about our firm. All those records they refer to were looked at and gone over. They were found to be not credible," he said.
The firm is currently battling for the right to do construction work for Atlantic City casinos. Over vehement objections by the state attorney general, the New Jersey Casino Control Commission last year granted Interstate a permit. But the state's Division of Gaming Enforcement, a unit of the attorney general's office, has filed suit to block it, pointing to evidence offered by DiLeonardo and others.
"The division is completely flawed in their evaluation," said DiTommaso. "I think the courts will rule in our favor."
As for working for the city, DiTommaso said he's changed his mind. "The city already owes me millions of dollars. I don't really know if I want to work for them."
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