The Islip Town Board has approved a $60,000 public relations contract for a company owned by the wife of a Republican state legislator, without seeking competitive bids.
The Republican-dominated board, which raised property taxes 28 percent last year to rectify a $26 million budget shortfall, voted unanimously on Tuesday to tentatively grant a contract to Beach House Communications Inc., of East Islip. Victoria Ryan, wife of State Sen. Philip Boyle (R-Bay Shore), is the firm's president.
In a phone interview, Ryan scoffed at the notion her relationship influenced the awarding of the contract. She said she is not a Republican, but registered with the Independence Party.
"I've been in business for 12 years; I've hopefully built up a reputation in the business community," said Ryan, a former executive director of the town's Foreign Trade Zone. "My expectation is that I've been brought on to perform these duties because of who I am and what my skills are and not because of who I'm married to."
Town officials knew of the political connection before authorizing Supervisor Tom Croci to enter into a contract with Ryan's company, but say it had no bearing and that state law exempts municipalities from competitively bidding for professional services agreements. The town did not consider other companies for the contract, Croci said.
The tentative, one-year contract would pay the company $5,000 monthly for publicity for the town-owned Long Island MacArthur Airport in Ronkonkoma.
Councilman Anthony S. Senft, the board's lone Conservative, said the contract was needed to lobby the Federal Aviation Administration to build an air traffic control tower at the airport and attract airlines to the facility, which has seen a significant decrease in flight traffic in recent years.
"Who Miss Ryan is married to doesn't impact her ability," Senft said. "We're more concerned with her ability to do the job. By hiring an outside expert, we hope to properly market the airport so the FAA will be energized."
Senft acknowledged he was unsure if the company had worked for other airports. Ryan said the company has not.
Croci, a Republican, said the contract is being negotiated and will be paid from airport income and user fees -- not taxpayer money. "This is somebody who has been in this business long before either of us was in an elected capacity or married to an elected official. It's based on experience and a track record," Croci said.
Boyle, a former assemblyman, said, "I think the days are over of women getting a job . . . [and that] is somehow attributed to their spouses. It's 2013. I, in no way, think she got the job because she's my wife."