Late last month, the New York State Insurance Fund (NYSIF) filed a complaint against one of the Westchester County’s largest trash haulers, R & S Waste, LLC, charging the multi-million dollar firm with running up a tab of over $783,000, after it failed to pay the premium on its workers’ compensation insurance policy for the four-year period between 2012 and 2016.
Owned by Joseph Spiezio III, a close ally of Mount Vernon Mayor Richard Thomas, who has been under fire ever since he appointed the deep-pocketed backer of his successful dark-horse campaign to the position of Deputy Police Commissioner, the spillover from the suspension of the New Rochelle-based firm’s insurance policy could extend well beyond the firm’s fortune before it’s all done.
While Spiezio operates a network of firms that stretch across the nation, raking in millions annually from waste hauling contracts he has with dozens of municipalities, R & S Waste is also a major provider of waste hauling services in the Lower Hudson Valley. Not only does the firm do pickups for residents and business in several municipalities here in the county—including the city where he is ensconced as Deputy Police Commissioner—it also hauls trash for the county government.
On more than one occasion, Spiezio has been accused by local rivals of unfair business practices. However, his knack for turning trash into treasure appears to have shielded him from closer scrutiny by authorities in White Plains.
Since 2012, R & S Waste has been awarded at least $3.5 million in municipal contracts by county officials. Earlier this year, at the February meeting of the County’s Board of Acquisition and Contract, County Executive Rob Astorino moved a motion to approve a contract that added another $1.6 million dollars to R & S’s coffers.
Now, the NYSIF suit raises questions as to whether Speizio’s firm was in compliance with state and county laws when he was awarded the lucrative contracts, and whether the regulators of the county’s Solid Waste Commission properly vetted his application for the license.
According to the complaint filed by the NYSIF, at the same time the county executive, commissioners and legislatures were awarding R & S one municipal contract after another, the hauler was welching on its obligation to pay its monthly insurance premium. Given NYSIF’s assertion that R & S hasn’t paid its premiums for the past four years, it begs the question as to why the firm’s hauling license wasn’t suspended, if not revoked altogether, some time ago.
Businesses in the state of New York are required, with few exceptions, to provide workmen’s compensation insurance coverage for all its employees. What’s more, the law calls for stiff financial penalties when businesses let their insurance coverage lapse.
When contacted for comments, a spokeswoman with NYSIF declined to answer any questions about the status of R & S Waste’s insurance policy. However, pertinent state statutes suggest the price could be rather high, perhaps in the millions, after penalties and fines are imposed. Whatever the final cost may be, Spiezio was surely aware of the requirements to maintain worker’s compensation. He’s widely believed to have been the driving force behind the legal battle Mayor Thomas waged to have a municipal contract the city awarded to the construction firm of Mount Vernon City Councilman Andre Wallace, invalidated on the ground the councilman didn’t make his worker’s compensation payments.
Now it seems the cart has been turned on Spiezio.
Aside from his failure to pay worker’s compensation as required by law, there are additional reasons for wondering how R & S obtained a license to operate a business here in the county in the first place.
The Solid Waste Commission’s application for a hauler’s license requires the applicant to submit copious amounts of information about their personal background and past business practices, all designed to weed out unscrupulous business owners from the county’s pool of contractors. Several questions ask the applicant if they’ve ever been found guilty by any court, administrative agency, or regulatory body of violating similar laws and regulations in any other municipality. A FOIL request for a copy of the Spiezio’s hauling application was sent to the County Clerk’s Office several days ago, but at the time of publication, the document had yet to be produced for review.
However, the previous reporting by Black Westchester has already uncovered evidence that both Spiezio and R & S Waste have been found guilty of unethical business practices on at least two occasions. State Senator George Latimer has accused incumbent county executive Rob Astorino of taking money from county politicos. Evidence that the terms of Spiezio’s county hauling contracts have been a bit too generous is hinted at in the pages of the airport privatization plan Astorino has been pushing, as of late, while out on the campaign trail. Among other proposed savings, the plan calls for the county to renegotiate the contract R & S currently has to operate the airport waste hauling operations so that in the future costs would be tracked and billed by the actual weight of the trash that R & S disposes. Apparently, the firm may be carting away extra county dollars along with the airport’s trash.
In the end, it may turn out the controversial owner of the trash-hauling operation is not the only Westchester notable who needs to be sacked for shady business practices.