A lobbyist that has clients doing business with the state’s Department of Homeland Security was given credentials that granted him access to secure agency buildings during the cleanup for Superstorm Sandy. He was also provided use of a state vehicle, which was later determined to be “not a good idea.”
Aside from the lobbyist, identified as Robert Ungar, several other non-government employees were given access to a supposedly secure building.
Via the Times Union:
During the state’s response to Superstorm Sandy, several non-state employees had unfettered access to the secure building that houses the governor’s office and other state agencies in New York City because they donned Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services identification credentials.
Included in that group was a lobbyist who also was allowed to use a division automobile for volunteer tasks. The lobbyist, Robert Ungar, had a client list that at the time included companies with multi-million-dollar contracts with the state — including with Homeland Security — for such things as emergency radios and IT services. Ungar has for years been a friend of DHSES Commissioner Jerome Hauer.
Also using state ID provided by Hauer was Michael Melnicke and members of his family, who continue to use the passes to enter state facilities. Melnicke is the owner of a string of nursing homes in the New York City region; the major campaign contributor often shows up at Hauer’s office with his son.
State IDs, parking placards and other privileges are supposed to be handed out based on need. The criteria for doing so is specific. Hauer’s spokesman, Peter Cutler, said Ungar had a vehicle for one instance, but it was decided that it was not a good idea.
Ungar and Hauer can be seen below in a photo provided on the FEMA website, which depicts the two visiting Breezy Point, a community that had hundreds of houses destroyed by fire during Hurricane Sandy.
Ungar has a contract with Harris Corp., which pays him nearly $100,000 annually to lobby state agencies and government. He has several other contracts, but Harris Corp. is the most eyebrow-raising.
In the prelude to Sandy, Hauer ordered hundreds of thousands of dollars more of Harris radios in a no-bid emergency deal and referred to Ungar as a “senior adviser,” according to a person familiar with the commissioner’s friendship with Ungar.
Here is a list of Ungar’s other lobbying connections.
Ungar’s name also appears on a list of people “who have hosted or co-hosted an event” for the Bill de Blasio for Mayor campaign.