The FBI is investigating whether a multi-million dollar New York City contract for rat-repellent trash bags is tied to a donation from the owner of the company that makes the bags to Mayor de Blasio's former nonprofit group, the I-Team has learned.
Federal authorities are investigating whether a $100,000 donation from Mint-X owner Joseph Dussich to the now-defunct Campaign for One New York played any role in a $6 million parks department bid for the bags.
Mint-X, which claims to be the only maker of trash bags registered by the EPA, didn't actually win the bid from the city; the contract went to Central Poly, a New Jersey company that buys the bags from Dussich's company.
But the city for the first time last year specifically requested EPA-certified rat-repellent bags when seeking bids. Mint-X claims it's the only company that could supplies bags certified by the EPA.
The request came months after Dussich gave money to the mayor's nonprofit, and Mint-X was awarded a small no-bid contract from the city.
Sources had previously told the I-Team that Dussich's company allegedly complained about having problems getting business from the city before making a donation.
Dussich's attorney, Roland Riopelle, told the I-Team that the larger contract specifically sought Mint-X-style bags because the Parks Department had tried them and found them highly effective. Riopelle said that Dussich had a history of making large donations to charities that help children and that his client gave money to Campaign for One New York because his client was told the donation would go toward early education.
Central Poly owner Andrew Hoffer, meanwhile, told the I-Team that the company buys bags from Mint-X because they're the only option.
"You have to use Mint-X bags," he said. "You don't have a lot of people doing these kind of bags."
Parks advocate Geoffrey Croft, who raised questions about the contract on his blog, said the contract raises eyebrows.
"This deal is highly suspect, there's no doubt about it," he said.
The revelation comes days after the I-Team reported that the FBI questioned Parks Department officials about whether de Blasio called about setting up a pitch meeting with Mint-X. Lawyers with the city got wind of the unannounced questioning and stopped it, sources said. FBI agents were then asked to leave. Two days after the standoff, FBI agents were invited back to question workers in a conference room at parks department officers in Central Park.
Spokesmen for U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara and the FBI had both declined to comment.
The controversy over the mint-scented anti-rat garbage bag contract is just one of several avenues of the fundraising investigation. From the awarding of some city contracts, to efforts to raise money to help certain Democrats win state senate races, the feds and the Manhattan DA are looking into whether the de Blasio-related fundraising efforts violated any state or federal laws.