Clare Rose employment audit ordered following strikers’ request

The Brookhaven Town supervisor Wednesday ordered its Industrial Development Agency to conduct a midyear audit of employment levels at Clare Rose, just hours after the agency told a group of the beer distributor’s striking workers that it would not do such a review.

“It is possible that Clare Rose may have violated the spirit, if not the letter, of their agreement with the IDA,” Supervisor Edward P. Romaine wrote in a letter to IDA chairman Frederick C. Braun III. “I am therefore requesting a mid-year review of this company to determine whether they are in compliance, and for the board to take immediate action, including clawback of benefits, if they are found to be in noncompliance.”
Romaine’s letter came after 10 striking Clare Rose employees asked the IDA board during its monthly meeting to rescind tax breaks given to the beer distributor in 2009.
The tax incentives were awarded primarily for a new warehouse and office in East Yaphank.
The strikers, members of Local 812 of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, said Clare Rose had violated its agreement with the IDA to employ 177 people in return.
The strikers said they had been replaced by new hires, some of them from outside New York State, and that the company’s payroll has shrunk since the strike started last month.
Clare Rose representatives didn’t attend the hour-long meeting held in Brookhaven Town Hall.
Sean Rose, president of family-owned Clare Rose, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. He confirmed Tuesday that the company has begun hiring full-time replacements for the more than 100 strikers who had worked in the warehouse and drove delivery trucks.
At the meeting, Braun told the strikers that the agency couldn’t revoke the tax savings given to the Budweiser distributor or demand it repay past tax savings because the company kept its promises to
construct the East Yaphank facility and maintain the workforce.
Clare Rose employed 192 people in 2016, which is above the 177 it committed to having when the tax breaks were awarded eight years ago.
“We look at the jobs numbers at the end of the year and they were in full compliance as of Dec. 31,” Braun said, noting the agency has never intervened in a strike.
Bernadette Kelly, a Teamsters international representative, said Clare Rose has been a poor corporate citizen recently and therefore undeserving of continued tax breaks.
“You have the ability to hold Clare Rose accountable,” she said.
IDA board member Gary Pollakusky suggested the agency audit the beer distributor’s current payroll to see if it’s still in compliance with the tax breaks agreement. “If companies aren’t in compliance with job commitments there have to be consequences,” he said. IDA attorney Annette Eaderesto and Braun said that to audit Clare Rose mid year, all IDA projects would have to be audited at mid year. Hearing this, the board dismissed Pollakusky’s proposal.
A spokesman for Supervisor Romaine said he had no problem with the IDA conducting a mid-year review of all of its projects. Clare Rose has two IDA tax deals: one for the $44.5 million warehouse in East Yaphank and one for installing solar panels on its roof. The first deal, which ends in 2021, accounts for most of the tax savings, which totaled $977,500 in 2015, according to information filed by the IDA with state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli.
The records also show that Clare Rose employed 166 people as of Dec. 31, 2015. They earned between $30,000 and $60,000 per year excluding benefits.