Maragos: vendor violated living wage law

Local businessman denies findings of Nassau County comptroller’s audit


Nassau County Comptroller George Maragos released an audit last week that found that the county’s concessions vendor may have violated the county’s Living Wage Law, among other violations.

According to the report, the vendor, Dover Gourmet Corporation, did not submit payroll documents or time and leave information, submitted incorrect information in order to receive living wage waivers and did not submit park employees’ fingerprints. Because of the lack of documents, auditors could not determine whether employees were properly paid.

“The lack of cooperation with an audit heightens suspicion of impropriety,” Maragos said in a statement. “At this point, the appropriate next step would be to refer the findings to the county attorney.”

The county has licensing agreements with the company for concession and vending machine services at county office buildings, recreation facilities and parks, including Nickerson Beach Park in Lido Beach.

The report also stated that the company’s president, Butch Yamali, did not provide auditors with county employee names, so they could not determine whether the employees were fingerprinted, which is required by contract. Maragos said that Yamali failed to provide the necessary payroll or time and leave records, which prevented auditors from determining whether he paid the county’s minimum living-wage rates.

“We went through the audit and gave them all the information,” Yamali said. “They came to the office and saw everything they wanted. They still issued this silly report. There’s no reason for it.”

The Living Wage Law, which took effect in 2007, raised the minimum wage for county and county contractors’ employees. According to Maragos, the living wage is $13.98 per hour for employees receiving health benefits, or $16.07 per hour for those not receiving benefits.

County officials granted Yamali a living wage waiver in 2014, according to the report, but Maragos said that Yamali filed incorrect wage information. Maragos said that the waiver — and a 2015 renewal — should not have been granted.

Maragos said the audit, which covered 2013 to 2015, would be forwarded to both the district attorney and the county attorney. He added that a separate audit released last year, which found that Yamali owed the county money, would also be forwarded to the attorneys’ offices.

Since 2007, the comptroller’s office has undertaken a number of living wage audits, and discovered that a total of 1,405 employees at 37 companies were owed nearly $1.1 million in underpaid wages.

Yamali, who said he has had the contract with the county for eight years, asserted that many of his employees qualify for exemptions from the Living Wage Law, and that the audit report was a baseless political attack.

“I think it’s because we didn’t support [Maragos] for county executive and he was upset,” Yamali said. “I think that had a very big bearing on this whole thing.”

Maragos said that Yamali should “immediately comply with the contract” by keeping records of pay rates and employee exemptions, and provide proof of employees’ fingerprints. He added that the county should rescind all waivers granted to Yamali, and that the county attorney should pursue him for breach of contract and enforce the Living Wage Law.

“How much money did it cost all these audits for years to audit me just to find $333 [owed to the county]?” Yamali said, referring to a previous audit he had undergone. “How much money did it cost Nassau County taxpayers? That’s the question.”