A “Tax Watch” investigation by a local news website found that Homestyle Caterers, which is under contract to run the banquet hall for the public golf course in Putnam County, N.Y. and is currently competing for a new contract, has not complied with requirements for collecting fees for events held at the property, and has instead extended favorable terms to the campaign committee of the County Executive.
The catering vendor for the public golf course in Putnam County, N.Y. has not complied with requirements for collecting fees for events held at the property and has instead extended favorable terms to the biggest customer—the campaign committee of County Executive MaryEllen Odell—of the banquet hall that it is under contract to run, LoHud.com reported.
Al Ciuffetelli, owner of Homestyle Caterers in Yorktown, N.Y., which is competing for a new contract from the Odell administration, acknowledged the violations after an investigation by the website’s “Tax Watch” found that the Odell campaign and a key Odell political ally received favored treatment at the Putnam County facility in Mahopac, N.Y., LoHud.com reported.
Homestyle Caterers violated its contract requirements 15 times since 2015 when it came to collection of its catering fee for events put on for the Committee to Elect MaryEllen Odell, LoHud.com reported.
In its Tax Watch report, LoHud.com documented how many customers were expected to pay their Putnam County Golf Course catering bills on the day of the event, as required by Homestyle Catering’s contract with the county. But the Odell campaign, among others, was allowed to slide, without an written agreement, as required by the county contract.
On average, Odell’s campaign paid 26 days after the events took place, LoHud.com reported.
“We have not have the need to formally obtain written extensions for any customers,” Ciuffetelli told LoHud.com, blaming Odell’s late payments on his staff’s neglect. “Honestly, there are occasions where we have been slow in providing final invoices to customers on the day of the event.”
Odell said she would discuss the issue with others in her administration before responding.
“I’ll be scheduling meetings in regards to your concerns and you should receive a response as soon as possible,” she wrote to LoHud.com in an e-mail message.
Odell’s review of Homestyle Caterers’ compliance with its contract comes as her administration is selecting a private vendor for a new catering contract at the Putnam Countyy golf course, LoHud.com reported. Homestyle, now operating on a month-to-month extension of its current pact, is among the companies that submitted proposals for the five-year agreement to run the facility’s banquet hall and entertainment venue.
Last month, Town of Kent Councilman Paul Denbaum, who will challenge Odell in a September Republican primary, told LoHud.com that he was troubled by the arrangements for Odell and her allies at the Putnam County clubhouse.
“It makes sense if you have a good client to do favors for them, because it helps with client retention,” said Denbaum, an attorney. “But that’s not how it works with government. It seems like a conflict of interest. She’s the boss of the contractor, and its client.”
A new contract was required after county legal counsel earlier this year determined that Homestyle’s current contact violated federal tax regulations regarding contracted services at a facility that was purchased with tax-exempt bonds, LoHud.com reported. The current contract is based on a 70-30 split of net revenues. The new arrangement could require that the vendor be paid a monthly management fee.
In 2017, Homestyle Caterers grossed $1.1 million from the contract, but $340,000 of its revenues were not subject to revenue-sharing, with costs for entertainment and the 18 percent service charge exempted from the split, LoHud.com reported. That brought Putnam County’s take to $244,000.
LoHud.com’s review of the county’s financial information on golf course catering revenues showed that the county’s share of the catering revenue was down 6 percent in 2017. Debt service in 2018 on the entire golf complex—which includes the 18-hole course—was $516,000, LoHud.com reported.
A review of 282 events in 2016 and 2017 found that the Odell campaign paid less, on average, than other customers at the banquet for buffets and receptions, LoHud.com reported.
Ciuffetelli told LoHud.com that one discounted event was a retirement luncheon for a longtime county employee and World War II veteran, at which Odell’s campaign committee paid for the food and Homestyle Caterers waived the service charge.
“I felt it was a nice gesture to forego the service charge for this occasion,” Ciuffetelli told LoHud.com.
No service charge was assessed to seven other Odell campaign events, he said, because they were held in the downstairs bar, where no wait staff was required to work. These included the campaign receptions linked to Odell’s delivery of the annual State of the County address and annual budget message, LoHud.com reported.
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