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Petrocelli moves past CEO’s plea with lights bid

A Long Island City-based electrical company submitted the low bid on four major city contracts for traffic signal maintenance just two weeks after the company’s former chairman and CEO pleaded guilty to bribery charges two weeks ago in one of the largest bid-rigging investigations in city history, the city Department of Transportation confirmed.

A DOT representative said Petrocelli Electric submitted the low bid, which is generally accepted by the city, for multimillion-dollar traffic signal maintenance contracts in four of the five city boroughs when the bidding process began Aug. 11 — a sign a spokesman for the company says is a signal it is trying to put the business’ past legal troubles behind it.

On July 30, longtime Petrocelli Electric CEO Santo Petrocelli Sr. pleaded guilty to bribery charges in Manhattan federal court, admitting to a judge he bribed disgraced former state Assemblyman Brian McLaughlin up to $70,000 in exchange for political favors.

In a statement, Petrocelli Electric said it has put the situation behind itself and looks forward to working with the city in the future.

“The U.S. attorney has confirmed that no charges will be brought against Petrocelli Electric Co. in connection with the actions to which its former CEO Santo Petrocelli Sr. allocuted,” the statement said. “Mr. Petrocelli Sr. left the company and gave up all operating responsibilities and control in 2006, several years prior to his indictment, and no longer holds an ownership stake in the company. Petrocelli Electric Co., under new leadership, has redoubled its commitment to the highest ethical standards as well as good corporate governance and business practices.”

The bids by Petrocelli Electric represent the first time the company has applied for a city contract since the federal City Lights Investigation came to light in 2006. The broad, still-ongoing investigation has led to the eventual guilty plea of Petrocelli Sr., McLaughlin and former Assemblyman Anthony Seminerio (D-Richmond Hill), making it one of the largest corruption investigations in Queens history.

A representative for the city DOT said all bids are subject to vetting by the city Department of Investigation, the mayor’s office and the DOT and can be rejected for any reason.

The City Lights Investigation casts a shadow on how contracts were awarded in the city. Prior to the federal probe, Petrocelli Electric and College Point-based Welsbach Electric Co. held more than $160 million in city contracts, mainly for traffic signal maintenance, and had annually split the contracts for several years.

The investigation revealed that McLaughlin took bribes from Petrocelli Sr. and other electrical contractors in exchange for assistance with labor unions and access to his political contacts. McLaughlin was also the head of the powerful Central Labor Council at the time his offices were raided.

Both companies’ offices were raided along with McLaughlin’s in 2006, though both cooperated with federal authorities and neither company has been brought up on criminal charges.

“McLaughlin’s criminal conduct involving Petrocelli was significant in its duration, in its scale and in the manner in which it negatively influenced him to engage in additional corrupt activity. Other employers in the street lighting industry, however, also made illegal payments to McLaughlin,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel Braun wrote in a letter detailing McLaughlin’s cooperation. “Moreover, McLaughlin acknowledged during his proffer sessions that he accepted significant monetary payments from an electrical contractor who is not referred to in the indictment.”

Though Petrocelli has not received a city contract since 2006, Welsbach has received more than $380 million in city contracts since then, city records show. Records also show traffic-signal maintenance contracts have been largely split between three companies during the last two years: Welsbach, Hellman Electric and Daidone Electric.

Reach reporter Stephen Stirling by e-mail at sstirling@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 138.

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