Firms hired for sewer study supported Neuhaus campaign (updated)

All four firms collaborating on an impending Orange County sewer study donated money to County Executive Steve Neuhaus’ 2013 campaign.

Campaign finance reports filed with the state Board of Elections show that Delaware Engineering, the Albany-based firm leading the group, gave Neuhaus $2,000 in the fall of 2013 and $2,000 in November 2012, three days after he launched his campaign for county executive. County officials announced this month they had chosen Delaware to study ways to increase sewage treatment capacity for southeastern Orange and any other places they want to channel growth and attract businesses. The contract price had yet to be finalized.

Two of Delaware’s partners made even bigger contributions. As the Times Herald-Record reported in the closing days of the 2013 campaign, six executives from Maser Consulting had recently funneled $10,000 to the New York Republican State Committee, and Clark Patterson Lee CEO Phil Clark had given the state GOP $7,500, in what appeared to be reimbursements for $33,348 that the state party had just spent on campaign mailings for Neuhaus. The payments from the Maser consultants and Clark were dated Oct. 16 and Oct. 18 of 2013; the mailer expenses were on Oct. 16 and Oct. 17. Clark then sent the Republican State Committee another $2,500 on Dec. 3 and directly gave Neuhaus $2,500 on Dec. 23.

In addition to the upcoming sewer analysis, Rochester-based Clark Patterson Lee holds a $4.7 million contract to design a $74 million renovation and expansion of the county Government Center, a project that is due to begin this spring with the demolition of one building and guttiing of the other two.

The fourth firm involved in the sewer study, Sterling Environmental Engineering of Latham, N.Y., made relative minor contributions to Neuhaus: $100 before the election and $350 immediately afterward. Maser Consulting contributed $475 directly to Neuhaus’ campaign in 2013.

A “pay-to-play” law enacted by the Orange County Legislature in 2013 allows county contractors to give the county executive no more than $4,000 over a four-year term. The law took effect at the beginning of 2014 and didn’t apply to contributions made before then.

Update: County spokesman Dain Pascocello said in response to this post that eight other engineering firms that bid either individually or in groups for the sewer study contract contributed to Neuhaus’ campaign, without getting the contract. The firms were: Barton & Loguidice; CHA Consulting (aka Clough Harbor & Associates); KC Engineering; The Ruby Group (a home builder that joined one of the engineering teams); CDM Smith; Fusco Engineering & Land Surveying; Fellenzer Engineering; and McGoey Hauser & Edsall.

Most made relatively small donations, but two were very generous indeed, campaign finance records show. Clough Harbor wrote five checks totaling $5,350 to the Neuhaus campaign in 2013. And KC Engineering donated $600 in October 2013, after its owner, Raj Ravilla, shelled out a whopping $10,000 in his wife’s name a month earlier.

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    Chris McKenna

    Chris McKenna covers Orange County government and politics for the Times Herald-Record. He has been a reporter at the newspaper since 1999. Read Full
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