N.E.L.T.S.: An Investigative Report

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In the following, the actual interview with Antonio Portunato, CEO of North East Landscaping and Tree Service (N.E.L.T.S.) is in standard case type. The rest of the report is in italics. Also included are links to information compiled as a result of the investigation by the World Sweeping Association in support of its members.

If you are a previous reader, you can skip to the bottom to see any additional info received after the initial publication date.

by Ranger Kidwell-Ross, Director of World Sweeping Association, Editor of WorldSweeper.com

As early as the first months of 2022 contractors began reporting to the World Sweeping Association (WSA) about difficulties with getting paid by North East Landscaping and Tree Service (N.E.L.T.S.). In March of 2022 I asked to link to the head of N.E.L.T.S., Antonio Portunato, on LinkedIn. We held an exchange in which Portunato agreed to contact me for an interview.

However, he did not follow through. And, more complaints from contractors came in during subsequent months.

In late April 2022 a contractor reported to WSA that they had sent a screenshot of a social media page to Home Depot showing what was said by contractors who were responding to the question: “Anyone ever work for N.E.L.T.S.?” That message said this and here is a link to the social media responses the contractor referenced.

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Here is what was sent to WSA members on May 15, 2022 due to information WSA had received. The links shown in the graphic are the ones already linked above.

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On November 15, 2022 — again in the twice-monthly WSA Member Updates that only WSA members receive — another warning about N.E.L.T.S. alleged slow and no payment problems (as well as similar issues that had been occurring regarding another third party vendor, Mirror Lawn) were shared with WSA members.

This information was included due to a conversation with a WSA member where s/he said their company had not been paid by N.E.L.T.S. for several months after the invoices were due. Subsequently that company was not paid on its June, July and August 2022 invoices until December 2022. As of this writing some overdue invoices have still not been paid.

A contractor also provided us with an email in which they questioned the very prominent link to membership in the North American Power Sweeping Association (NAPSA) that N.E.L.T.S. touted in its email, including a NAPSA logo in its email signature files much larger than a standard signature file graphic. S/he emailed N.E.L.T.S. later in December saying “ITS DECEMBER 15TH WE ARE WAITING FOR THE SANTA GIFT FROM NELTS,  OVER $10,000.00 OWED TO [our company]. WILL OUR PRESENT BE HERE BEFORE CHRISTMAS????? IT’S GOOD TO SEE YOU ARE NAPSA MEMBERS IN YOUR EMAIL PAGE, DO YOU KNOW THEY HAVE A CODE OF ETHICS YOU SHOULD FOLLOW TO BE A MEMBER IN GOOD STANDING??

Portunato was apparently shown the November 15th WSA Update by someone and called the WSA office the following day. During that conversation with me he agreed to allow a taped audio interview to take place.

Although in the transcription that follows one might be led to think Portunato and I were friends and/or had spoken prior, that was not the case. Also, during the interview I asked several questions to which we had documented information showing the truth of the matter. As you will read, Portunato’s answers in some instances were in direct contradiction with that information.

Author’s comments are made at various points within the transcription where information on file at WSA/WorldSweeper contradict Portunato’s statements. These are delineated with lines as well as the type is in italics.

Transcription of Audio Interview

December 2, 2022

Portunato: Hello?

WSA/WorldSweeper: Anthony.

Portunato: Hey Ranger! What’s happening, brother?

WSA/WorldSweeper: Well, I’m just trying to get to the bottom of whatever’s going on with you and contractors and all that… we’d been talking about an interview for a couple months, and so it made sense to do, and you got back to me, probably, from my WSA Update recently…

Portunato: Ah, no actually… one of my friends had seen, he’s big into sweeping, too, a couple of my guys… I remember you reaching out back to me, I read one of the articles last night, and I was like “Aw shit, I forgot to get back to the guy.” And then yesterday I get an article that my company’s being called a shoddy business.

WSA/WorldSweeper: Well, I didn’t know… and let me, I’ve got to tell you too, as a part of my journalism stuff, any time you talk to me it’s on a recorded line. So, just saying.

Portunato: No problem.

WSA/WorldSweeper: I’m sure it’s not a problem. Shoddy business, that’s kinda nebulous… I don’t think I exactly said that… let me ask you this… first off, tell me about N.E.L.T.S. How many employees do you have, can you tell me that? 

Portunato: Sure, sure. So we have 495 inhouse employees.

WSA/WorldSweeper: And then you do some sweeping, self performing?

Portunato: We actually self-perform over 1,450 sweep sites.

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Note: A review of N.E.L.T.S. DOT report obtained at Safer.FMCSA.dot.gov (enter N.E.L.T.S. DOT number, 3166230) shows the company states it operates a total of “5 power units.” That would seem to imply that Portunato is claiming that N.E.L.T.S. self-performs approximately 290 sweep sites per sweeper.

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WSA/WorldSweeper: Okay. What kind of sweepers do you use?

Portunato: Well that’s okay — We use Schwarze, they’re a great partner with us and you know, at the end of the day we love those trucks! I have a few TYMCO’s, we use a few TYMCO’s, but for the price point, everything’s getting real expensive…

WSA/WorldSweeper: Gosh knows, it is. And in many places, not just sweepers. And don’t answer anything that might be proprietary, mind you, but, what percentage would you say you guys do in-house versus going out as a third party vendor?

Portunato: So, here’s the deal… I’ll kind of break it down for you a little bit. So we got awarded the sweeping for Home Depot this year. We’ve done a lot with snow and some sweep sites that we’ve been doing for Home Depot for the last five years. It had this company, Mirror Lawn, that was doing a lot of the sweeping and when I took over, it was an absolute nightmare. I mean this guy owed everybody and their mother money.

So, you know, I have a lot of sweeping companies, I mean I probably know 150 of them through the entire country that are really close friends of mine. I coach ‘em and teach ‘em and do anything I can to help anybody. So when we took on the Home Depot accounts, with the sub-vendor side, I don’t like to deal with sub vendors, Ranger, to be completely honest with you. I have my own business.

I deal with the self-perform side of my company and all my employees, and I obviously, of course, have a team that deals with the vendors side, so there was a few markets that I had to take with my customer, clearly, because that’s just how things work when you get customers.

WSA/WorldSweeper: So is it all the Home Depot’s?

Portunato: Well, it’s not all of them, but they don’t break it up — it’s done by state. So, long story short is, they started offering me stuff in Minnesota and Michigan, we were already doing work in Chicago, and I had a few vendors in Chicago reach out to me and go, “Please, I need to keep these Home Depot’s, my business…”

Okay, no problem, absolutely! So I let my team deal with that stuff, I wasn’t really part of 95% of it, you know, and of course we don’t do anything in Minnesota, right? And it’s part of our gig to take it, and that’s where the customer comes in, and we have other customers in Minnesota also that are asking us to do it because they can’t find proper people. So, I’m like okay, no problem.

So then we start getting into this whole sweeping ordeal, and, you know, you have guys that don’t have proper insurance, you have guys that don’t do the job, you have guys that don’t wanna use apps, you have guys that don’t wanna send you pictures, you have guys… I Could tell you stories for days, honestly, Ranger… and it comes down to a point where, really self-explanatory, the customer requires you to use their app, they require you to submit photos, and they require you to do the work that is asked for you to do, and that is that.

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In late 2022 Portunato entered into an email conversation with a contractor whose sweeper operator had not taken photos during some of its sweeping nights. Not only did he say in no uncertain terms the contractor was not getting paid, he also claimed that Home Depot would not be paying N.E.L.T.S. and his email language was unprofessional to the extreme, containing a total of nine ‘F-bomb words’ and two other expletives. Here is the link to that exchange.

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I have vendors that we have worked with that I had to let go that do not do the the work properly. And let me ask you a question, somebody who’s part of this sweeping organization, right… do you think that a person who’s in the sweeping business who has an LLC, who has insurance under their sweeper under their name/their wife’s  name, do you think that is sufficient enough to sweep a Home Depot?

WSA/WorldSweeper: Well, I don’t know the legalities of that stuff, Anthony…

Portunato: That’s alright, that’s okay.

WSA/WorldSweeper: But I know a lot of people have their business under their wife’s name to make it a woman-owned business because you get some contracts…

Portunato: Nah, that’s not what I’m talking about. What I’m talking about is an actual personal business policy instead of getting a business insurance policy, so it’s illegal, you can’t do that.

WSA/WorldSweeper: Okay.

Portunato: You know, long story short, a lot of these guys that my team has let go, in all due respect, Ranger, they just don’t do the job! And I have pictures to confirm it, I have everything that can do that, we’re not out to hurt anybody… and at the end of the day, we were led a short string with our customers, especially with the prior third party management company will say, that had the sites prior to us. Okay? So we were already in the negative as it was.

WSA/WorldSweeper: Well, Mirror Lawn’s reputation is historically not particularly good…

Portunato: Well, I have a lawsuit with him right now, he owes me hundreds of thousands of dollars.

WSA/WorldSweeper: Do any contractors have lawsuits with you that they’re not being paid?

Portunato: Zero.

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Prior to the interview with Mr. Portunato, WSA had received information from one of its members that due to non-payment of several tens of thousands of dollars for its sweeping they had filed a lawsuit against N.E.L.T.S. and that the lawsuit was current. Prior to publication, the existence of the lawsuit was confirmed via phone conversation on January 20, 2022.

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WSA/WorldSweeper: Are there any contractors out there that haven’t had complaints that you owe them over $10,000 past 90 days?

Portunato: We had zero of those. we had one gentleman that was owed $14,000 from us. Again, no insurance, no documentation of pro services, sweeping on off days that aren’t supposed to be sweeping, so we have a sweep calendar with the customer, Home Depot. So Home Depot requires you to sweep Monday, Tuesday, Friday. Saturday, or whatever cadence they’d like, I have people sweeping on… say, Home Depot wants it done for the night of monday morning, they’re doing it for Tuesday, calling me, saying “Hey, I did it last night, and my team’s telling me we’re not getting paid from Home Depot.” Home Depot does their own audits — I get an audit every month from them, and whatever is overtime, under time, things not on a sweep day, double checking, double-time checkings… we get fined from Home Depot. Just like Lowe’s does the same thing.

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Prior to the interview with Mr. Portunato, WSA had been sent information from at least two contractors that N.E.L.T.S. was far behind on payment to their respective companies for well over $10,000 each.

Another member contractor had WSA called to say their N.E.L.T.S. representative had told them Home Depot said they had to reduce their contracted price per sweep by $5/sweep or they would be cancelled.

The contractor refused to do so and the threat was rescinded; however, the contractor subsequently quit providing services for N.E.L.T.S./Home Depot.

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WSA/WorldSweeper: To be clear, was it or was it not Home Depot that said the contractor had to drop its price $5 per sweep [from the contracted price/sweep]?

Portunato: Oh, god no, somebody told you about that? No… So, we corrected that invoice, my customer would never do that at us. Long story short… we had a few guys that were price gouging us in the Midwest. And when I mean price gouging us, $186 per sweep. So we went back to them, of course, clearly… there was an e-mail that was sent that my team corrected. And you know, we’re giving them the opportunity to lower their prices so we’re not in a negative margin. I mean, that’s that. At the end of the day, I have to do what I have to do, and some of these guys… you know… it’s a difficult time, Ranger, and all I can say is we coach a lot of people.

WSA/WorldSweeper Well I know there’s some places in the Midwest that “windshield time” is pretty extensive, and that most are into it [extensive drive time], otherwise they wouldn’t charge $186 a sweep.

Portunato: The customer would never pay that, Ranger. There’s not a customer out there, I mean, I do shopping centers, and I’m sure you know most people — you don’t even get paid most of that money for shopping centers.

WSA/WorldSweeper: It’s not close to that — it depends on how far it is to have to drive.

Portunato: And I totally understand that, totally get it. At the end of the day, our price mark is our price mark, and we have to spend within it. And you know, if these guys were doing out-of-scope stuff, and picking up couches and toilets, making the company a little extra money… okay, maybe we can talk, maybe lower the price down just a little bit… but as long as we’re bringing in honest…I got guys that just go and sweep, they don’t want to pick up any of the extra debris! Who wouldn’t wanna pick up a toilet and make extra money? Or a mattress?

WSA/WorldSweeper: I get it! I tell them to do all that stuff but the question that comes up in my mind, is how did you give them a contract for $186 a sweep, anyway?

Portunato: Well, we gave… so, my team member, one of the girls that runs my team, had given this gentlemen the sweep sites, and the deal was he was supposed to help us with the out-of-scope stuff. So we gave him $186, he was supposed to start getting out-of-scope, but he wasn’t doing it. Not only wasn’t he doing it, this guy was not even doing his job at all, period. I mean, we wouldn’t get e-mails for two weeks, three weeks, come back to us the next week, I mean, perfect example. We had a guy in South Carolina. Now, May June July, you swept for us, we sent you e-mails a number of times for your invoice… guess when I got this gentleman’s invoice? October 28. For May, June, and July.

WSA/WorldSweeper: That’s amazing.

Portunato: Yeah, but I didn’t bill the customer! So you’re not getting paid!

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Although the referenced South Carolina contractor has not contacted WSA/WorldSweeper regarding the above information, we hope they do. When that occurs, we will be glad to request information from Home Depot about whether or not N.E.L.T.S. did invoice Home Depot for those sweeps and whether or not either N.E.L.T.S. or the contractor were subsequently paid for those sweeps.

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WSA/WorldSweeper I don’t know why anybody would do that.

Portunato: Listen, it’s not just one. We’re talking multiples. Ranger, I mean, at the end of the day, we’re not a third party company. We are a self-performing company that, at this moment, we have vendors working for us, and we’re coming to a conclusion where it’s not working out throughout the entire board. I have a guy in New Hampshire that does all my New Hampshire stuff, the guy is awesome.

Okay? I don’t hear from him, I don’t talk to him, he does his job, he gets paid on time, documents done, apps are done, pictures are done, everything’s done. Guy in Georgia, same thing, boom boom… we’re taking over the Georgia market because we just closed on our building in Atlanta, so we’re taking over the Georgia market next week.

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WSA received a supportive email from a WSA member contractor who does business with N.E.L.T.S., but had read the cautions about the company written in the WSA Member Update. That email is linked here.

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WSA/WorldSweeper: Well, so why is all this negative stuff out there about you of non-payment?

Portunato: It’s… listen, At the end of the day, if you do your job right, if the documents are done properly, the app is done properly, you bill properly, you get paid properly, if you don’t do those things, Ranger, there’s no payment, no customer in the world, or anybody, even yourself, that would pay anybody in their right mind — “Oh, hey, no, I swear, I promised I swept the place.” I have no pictures! I have no check-ins, I have no GPS reports, I have nothing…so at the end of the day, we give them 14 days to give us that information.

WSA/WorldSweeper: So, you have GPS reports: I would think that would make a lot more sense than photos, because…

Portunato: The customer requires photos, that’s irrelevant.

WSA/WorldSweeper: But what’s that even look like, with a sweeper at night?

Portunato: Oh, you can see! If the lights are on they’re all auto LED lights, you pull in the parking lot, and all the lights are on.

WSA/WorldSweeper: So you take a picture, but it may not show any debris…

Portunato: You’re arguing with the wrong guy on that — it’s all what the customer requires.

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The question arises about whether requiring nighttime photos from sweeping contractors is a requirement of Home Depot or of N.E.L.T.S.? Has N.E.L.T.S. billed — and was paid by — Home Depot for any contractor sweeps where N.E.L.T.S. subsequently did not pay the contractor? This is a question we believe Home Depot should audit and then provide an answer.

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WSA/WorldSweeper: Okay. Well, I’ve got to tell you, in terms of documentation, I have some. I have three contractors that say you owe them in the tens of thousands that hasn’t been paid, and I know there’s at least one lawsuit out there with you currently.

Portunato: There’s no lawsuit with us at all. 

WSA/WorldSweeper: So that’s just he said, she said?

Portunato: I don’t have time; I don’t need the bumper sticker, Ranger, right? Bullshit and lies, don’t really care. My business and my life are still gonna continue, okay? And at the end of the day I’m calling you to let you know that our intentions are the best that we could ever have. Nobody’s in this business to hurt anybody — well, I’m not, nor is my company, okay — but at the end of the day you have to abide by everything that is told to you.

I have to do it, I’m not gonna push it all till you say “No, it’s okay that Joey doesn’t have to send me pictures” — no, the customer requires it! We literally take their contract and give it to these vendors, right?

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We would also request that Home Depot respond about whether or not the contract provisions provided to N.E.L.T.S. are identical to those given to the contractors that perform the services.

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And at the end of the day, have your vendor, or whoever three who are complaining to you, have them send you verification that they actually did their job for one month, Ranger. Have them provide you the proof, because in my eyes they’re only showing you what they want you to see, not the actual full frontage of it, right?

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In order to provide the most timely information when this investigative report was published, we contacted a WSA member contractor on the day of publication and asked them to send us “verification that they actually did their job for one month,” as Portunato said. The contractor sent the following information regarding their sweeping for N.E.L.T.S. at Home Depot locations in October of 2022, as shown in the graphic approved by N.E.L.T.S. employee, Valerie Joyner:

The contractor still not been paid as of January 23, 2023. The manager confirmed they had missed one scheduled sweep during the month, as shown.

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And everybody knows in this business that Tony doesn’t hide from nobody — I have my cell phones passed out to everybody, they can all call me, I have an open door policy, you guys can come down, have a coffee with me, sit down… nobody, listen, the worst thing you wanna do is owe people money in this world. Okay? Because… at the end of the day, that’s not how you do business.

I’m not Mirror Lawn, I’m not Brightview, I’m not Farrandino and Sons, I’m sure the fuck not WalMart, I can tell you that. (Laughter) So at the end of the day, we need to have these things done that have to be done in the proper way, nobody’s out to hurt anybody, but these guys gotta learn that the job has to be done the proper way.

And I appreciate you — I would love to be part of your organization and help coach some of these guys… I mean, listen, I self perform 1390 sites IN HOUSE with all my teams, and I would love it! I have Georgia guys that are coming to my building next week when we get it open and I’m gonna teach them how we do our roll calls, and how we send ‘em out… I mean, Schwarze is gonna do a documentary on the company because I’ve ordered 15 plus, 20 plus trucks in the last seven months, you know what I’m saying? So at the end of the day, nobody’s out to hurt anybody.

WSA/WorldSweeper: Are there any other things? Somebody told me that I should ask you if you’ve ever gone bankrupt, is that something you want to answer to?

Portunato: Oh yeah — I went bankrupt in 2016, I got divorced, I had a couple companies owe me over a couple million dollars, I was bankrupt by 2017, I took a year off… I mean I can tell you my whole story if you’d like, it’s actually a good story.

WSA/WorldSweeper: Well, you’re welcome to do that if you want, I mean it is interesting, sure, tell me.

Portunato: Yeah! So when I was 18 years old I started my business, I was in the snow business for, you know, starting at 18, I started to do firewood, and… then one thing led into another, I got into the snow business, so of course I love snow, and… plowing, doing my thing as a young teenager, and by 22 I had, like seven or eight trucks and a couple employees and we were doing great!

WSA/WorldSweeper: Doing primarily, then, landscaping? Or snow?

Portunato: It was just really snow and firewood because I was really young, we’re going back to 2009 here, right as the market crashed.

So I started the business right when the market crashed, and I tried to start a landscape business so bad, Ranger, when I was like 19 or 20… shit, I failed that like six times, I couldn’t get enough customers, I had to sell the lawn mowing equipment a hundred times over.

So finally I turned 25 years old, I caught myself a break, I got myself my first shopping center, I had to beg, plead, and borrow… so I finally got it, I was so excited, had a really good year. And I would say from 2013 and on, I called Home Depot, I called WalMart, I called Lowe’s every year at the same time, to try to get on it, and I always got this response: If you can’t take on multiple states, we can’t award you any locations. Alright, I promise I’ll call you when I get there, and at that time, the lady that was at Home Depot, and the two gentlemen at WalMart and Kohl’s, they kept telling me when you’re ready, just call me, call me!

So of course, as life goes on I start building the company a bit bigger, blah blah blah… probably by 2014, I’m doing pretty good, I’m doing $1.5 million a year, small business doing really good, and I got mixed up with this company called Facility Source, and I was towing a couple distribution centers for ‘em, then I got mixed up with this company, National Maintenance, East Coast Lot Pavement — so I was doing a bunch of shopping centers for them in 2015-2016, so then I plowed this mall, the Swanson Mall, and it was like one of the worst years I had.

I had the Mall not pay me, I had Facility Source screw me on $400,000 at the Lowe’s Distribution Center, and I had National Maintenance screw me for over $300,000. They ended up paying me half of it, National Maintenance did, but they still owed me another $150,000, and so then of course in 2016 I got divorced with my wife, my kids mother… and, you know, that went bad, and it just went sour and I had to file bankruptcy because these guys weren’t paying me, and you know, my divorce, I had to give up all my stuff… it was a tough time in my life.

So, in 2017, I took the year off and said “You know what? I’m gonna go coach baseball with my kids, I’m gonna enjoy my time.” Now in 2017 I had put a bunch of bids in with Lowe’s and Home Depot and a pile of people… WalMart, everybody… so I closed the business where I had one truck, and I was just going out every day, me and one guy, because I love turf, right? I love baseball fields, and that’s what I was doing for a little bit. And, you know, took about a year off, it was the best thing I ever did, Ranger, I got my head back together, you know, going through a tough time like that, you know what I’m saying, and… 2018, I had my truck and I had a few customers reach out to me and say “Listen dude, we can’t find anybody, we really need you.”

I said “Listen, I’m probably gonna hang it up, I had a really good job opportunity to go work for a big corporate company for $300k+ a year, so I told them I was thinking about that, I turned that down because I’m a hustler — I’ve been doing stuff since I was 18 years old! And 2018 came, my wife looked right at me and she said “Honey, you’re not one to sit around so go figure it the fuck out” and I did!

And, so I got in with Home Depot in 2018, I got in with a couple other big companies, Bricksmore, and site centers, and a lot of these guys I used to work for back in the day, and, you know, we got back into business in 2018 and we’ve been flying ever since!

WSA/WorldSweeper: I wish I knew what to make of it, Anthony.

Portunato: Hey, listen, I’m not embarrassed about my bankruptcy, brother.

I’m gonna tell you something right now — I never had any guidance when I was younger, you know? I grew up without a father, I grew up in the city, you know, my mother was my father, my family, my everything! You know, we lived in very bad neighborhoods as a kid, and grew up in New York City, and we moved to the suburbs when the casino opened over here, my mother moved us down to a little town, and now I’m very thankful she did that, because I wouldn’t be the person I am today, and honestly, out of the tough times in my life, you know, a lot of people complaining about failures… it was the best thing that ever happened to me! You know what I’m saying? You learn from mistakes and you’re just an asshole if you don’t learn from your mistakes.

WSA/WorldSweeper: Indeed so.

Portunato: So at the end of the day, you know, that’s really what it comes down to. I have a reputation of being an asshole, and I will take that to the grave. I’m a business man, I do my business 110%, when my inhouse teams work we work 110%, and I don’t really like to deal with excuses, it’s not worth it, a customer hires you to do something, I can’t go to my customers and say “You know what, I’m really sorry, I’ll try my best next time.” That’s not why they hire you.

I’m the guy you call when you want the ball, that’s how I leave it. I mean, BJ’s, they’ve had nothing but nightmares the last years. I mean, I do 110 BJ’s, I mean I literally have 90% of their portfolio, you know, that’s because I am who I am. I mean, the hurricane went down to Florida, I was helping out every single person I possibly could… because at the end of the day, that’s just what we’re in business for. The problem that we have these days in business? Everybody hates somebody, not one person has something good to say about somebody and everybody has everything to say bad about everybody.

WSA/WorldSweeper: Well, that’s certainly true, and there’s a lot of things that are out there on social media that you don’t know what to think about and that sort of thing, too.

Portunato: Well that’s the other thing, too — Social media is gonna kill this world! I mean it’s that simple. I mean, everybody has an opinion, and you know at the end of the day you’re allowed to have it! But don’t think that my feelings are gonna get hurt because you have that feeling.

You know, it’s the same thing with other guys… I know a company that’s a fantastic company, people go online and bash that poor bastard to nothing just because he took a few of his accounts — that’s like UniSource right now — he’s out running his mouth about us because, you know, Bridgeport gave us a few accounts, hey well listen, if you did your job the right way, I didn’t underbid it!

I’m getting three hundred something dollars to sweep parking lot and you’re charging her a hundred and a quarter! So don’t go and say I’m lowballing the account, you don’t even know my number! So, you know, that’s just what it is, Ranger, and it’s sad, and I love to help anybody, and I would love to be a part of your organization if I could — at the end of the day, I would love to teach and help anybody I can.

Of course, people have pride, they don’t wanna take help from anybody… but I’m 35 years old, I own a multi-million dollar company, most guys that are in their 60’s and 70’s never broke a million in their life. So there’s something that I can teach.

WSA/WorldSweeper: Well, I’ll certainly take that under advisement [but WSA is designed for contractors not third party vendors].

Portunato: So that was the other thing I was telling you — in the next 60 days we are not gonna be subcontracting any sites anymore.

Keep that under advisement, I’d love to be a part of your organization, I’m with NAPSA now. I deal with the NAPSA guys all the time, and at the end of the day I’d love to be a part of WSA. I really would, and that way, you can ask all the questions in the world if someone has a question about us. You know, you can mediate situations between two vendors if you wanna call and do that too! Listen, at the end of the day, I’m here, I’m a normal guy just like you, I don’t sit with a suit and a tie behind my desk.

WSA/WorldSweeper: I gave up that suit and tie business a long time ago myself… I might well call back and mediate, there are several contractors that I know have concerns, but I don’t have an okay from them to mediate or have us all get the phone together.

Portunato: Listen, that’s okay, and you’re more than welcome to. Okay? You have my cell phone number — this is my personal cell phone number, please don’t pass it out — but at the end of the day, you know, with some vendors that may have said something to you, they’ve probably been paid by now, because they’ve probably been terminated, and paid, and we’ve moved on.

WSA/WorldSweeper: Well, they have not… some have been terminated and not been paid, and I think there maybe one that is not terminated…

Portunato: No, they’re all paid. They’re all paid. Every single person is paid in full as of today, Friday. And most of these guys…again, it’s only a one sided story, Ranger, so I would love if you’d want to do that “mediate them” situation, I’m all about it.

WSA/WorldSweeper: Okay, that’s good! I appreciate that.

Portunato: I’m absolutely all about it! Nobody hides in the shadows at N.E.L.T.S.

WSA/WorldSweeper: Well, maybe that’s a place to leave it.

Portunato: Yeah! Cool. That’s fine. I appreciate it.

WSA/WorldSweeper: That’s a good spot to leave an interview, I’ll say.

Portunato: Listen man… I’m here for everybody, if you ever need to contact me or call me, I’m here, if there’s any vendors that need to talk to ‘em, they gotta reach out and call…

WSA/WorldSweeper: Okay. Well, I won’t give them your cell phone number, but I might mediate with somebody. I’ll see how they feel about it.

Portunato: Absolutely, I’ll get my CFO who deals with all the payments and myself on the same call, and the account manager so that way you can hear everything in between, and that can clear our name a little bit.

WSA/WorldSweeper: That’d be a good way to do it, I think,

Portunato: I don’t like to be called a shoddy business. I’m a dickhead, but I’m not a shoddy business.

WSA/WorldSweeper: Well I think there is a difference, I’ve never known the exact difference… but I know there is a difference. So, I appreciate it.

Portunato: Yeah, no problem. I appreciate you taking my phone call, man, and like I said, I would love to be a part of your organization at some point, and hopefully I could teach somebody, and if anyone has any questions, be able to message with them and help them through a hard process.

WSA/WorldSweeper: Well, alright, thank you, Anthony. You want to be Anthony or do you want to be Tony?

Portunato: Ah, you can call me whatever. Tony or Anthony.

End of transcription

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A WSA member whose company is also a member with NAPSA provided a variety of the above information (and asked WSA to send the linked information in this article, which WSA did) to the NAPSA Board prior to its December Board Meeting. At that meeting the contractor was told the Board would be weighing whether or not to strip N.E.L.T.S. of its NAPSA membership for, presumably, ethics violations.

NAPSA membership requires adherence to a Code of Ethics. (WorldSweeper/WSA actually pioneered the ethics requirement which NAPSA later adopted.) Below are sections of that Ethics requirement from the NAPSA website.

We had previously asked Nancy Terry, NAPSA’s Executive Director, via email, to send us the outcome of NAPSA’s December Board Meeting; i.e., had any action been taken in regard to N.E.L.T.S. membership with NAPSA. Since no reply had been forthcoming, on January 20th I contacted the NAPSA office and asked Ms. Terry what, if any, action had been taken.

She said the matter had been tabled until NAPSA’s January Board Meeting. Unfortunately, that meeting is scheduled for slightly past our publication date. We will report on the outcome of that meeting in the WorldSweeper.com February e-newsletter as well as add the information to this file once we have it.

On January 20th I also left a voicemail for Cole Watts, current NAPSA President, but as of press time we had not received a callback.

However, more important than N.E.L.T.S. status with NAPSA is the fact that the company represents a variety of information about its relationship with Home Depot. Since it appears that what Antonio Portunato said in the above interview is in direct contradiction to documentation we have received from contractors, one is led to question the truthfulness about statements made about the company’s payments from Home Depot. Perhaps most importantly: Has N.E.L.T.S. been paid any monies by Home Depot where it did not pass along the appropriate amount to the servicing contractor?

Secondly, given the contradictions and lack of professionalism shown above, another question Home Depot should address is this: Is N.E.L.T.S. a company that represents the reputation Home Depot would like to portray? Additionally, given the extensive information about N.E.L.T.S. provided to NAPSA by WorldSweeper/WSA and a variety of its member contractors, why wasn’t immediate action taken to expel N.E.L.T.S. from NAPSA for Ethics Code violations?

In this email exchange sent recently to Ms. Terry by a contractor that is a member of both NAPSA and WSA, she stated “Third party issues are the bane of our industry’s existence… Please understand that NAPSA as a trade organization,  is not a policing agency. We are limited to what we can do and say but the board will review the options at the meeting.”

WorldSweeper/WSA is in fundamental disagreement with a portion of this statement. We do agree that third party vendors certainly are the bane of the parking lot sweeping industry’s existence. However, WSA’s view is that assisting contractors to receive payment owed them by shady third party vendors, as well as notifying other members of reported payment and other irregularities by such vendors, should be done as a matter of course.

During its 10+ years of existence WSA has intervened with non-paying third party vendors for a number of its member contractors. The vendor contacts almost always result in the entire payment in question being received.

WSA also maintains a list of all known third party vendors, over 25, so WSA members can review the information other WSA members have provided on each, both positive and negative. This allows them to better their decision making about the advisability of entering into contracts with any particular third party vendor.

Although this investigative report has been compiled to benefit WSA members, instead of distributing it only to WSA members it is being provided to the entire power sweeping industry due to the seriousness of the situation. Our intent is to also provide the report to Home Depot exterior services management along with a request to audit payments to N.E.L.T.S. for how the information aligns with payments to contractors.

If any reader has additional information to provide regarding the above article, including personal non-payment issues or knowledge about any possible article inaccuracies, please send an email to director@worldsweepingpros.org.

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Information received after initial publication of this investigative report:

An Ohio-based contractor wrote to say that N.E.L.T.S. had gotten two Home Depots they had swept for years with no issues. However, as you can read at this link that all changed when they started sweeping for N.E.L.T.S.

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