Monthly Feature: Get to Know... Craig Olivo
January 1, 2019
By: Craig L. Olivo
To get to know Craig Olivo, start by asking his colleagues and clients. Not one to seek the spotlight, Craig works quietly, doggedly and respectfully to negotiate and solve seemingly intractable issues for his clients.
Widely respected among the firm’s attorneys, Craig co-manages the Garden City office of Bond, serves as one of seven members on the firm’s Compensation Committee and is co-deputy chair of Bond’s statewide Labor & Employment Practice. Over the years, Craig has served on nearly every internal Bond committee.
Craig counsels and represents a diverse group of public and private sector employers -- municipalities, school districts, public authorities of all types, small family-owned businesses, large public companies, not-for-profit service organizations and institutions of higher education. He advises clients in labor matters involving police, fire, sanitation, blue collar and white collar employees, teachers, administrators and non-instructional staff.
Jeffrey Seigel, Executive Director of the Nassau/Suffolk Law Services, says, “Tensions can run high, even under the best negotiation circumstance. It’s one thing to get your client to like you, but when the people on the other side of the table like you too, that’s saying something. They respect Craig’s ethics and ability to take a tough stance without being nasty about it. The union leaders like and respect him, even when they disagree with him.”
And there’s Kevin Coster, Superintendent of Schools for the William Floyd School District. “Craig is off-the-charts intelligent, but it’s a quiet, unassuming intelligence. When I first observed him at the negotiating table, I wondered when he was going to say something. I quickly learned that he never feels the need to show his cards until it’s absolutely necessary. Everyone gets treated with respect, and when it’s time to bring out the most important fact, Craig always has it. He’s organized, supremely prepared, and highly ethical.”
Craig’s early and consuming interest in labor law started with his family. Counting a PBA president, a County Attorney and a Superintendent of Schools among his immediate family role models, his interest was solidified by a local case that ended up in the United States Supreme Court: Board of Education of Kiryas Joel Village School District v. Grumet.
Craig’s familiarity with the Kiryas Joel case stemmed from his father’s position as Superintendent of Schools at the school district that included the Hasidic Orthodox village of Kiryas Joel. Craig wrote about the developing case for his senior paper at Duke University, and again for his Law Review Note at Notre Dame. He was later invited to attend the oral argument at the US Supreme Court.
Craig has worked on more than a few notable matters over the years. He led a team that represented the Nassau County Interim Finance Authority (NIFA) when they were lifting a multi-year wage and hiring freeze for four of the County’s unions. “There were literally hundreds of millions of dollars at risk and a line of police recruits waiting to be sworn in back at police headquarters in Mineola. We were able to successfully assist the County and the Unions to reach a settlement satisfactory to NIFA.”
Another standout case involved more than half a million dollars that went missing from the business office of the William Floyd School District. There were arrests and an investigation by the Suffolk District Attorney, IRS and the FBI. For approximately 18 months Craig worked almost exclusively on this case. “We helped one of the largest and most economically challenged districts get through an extremely difficult situation including tax violations, criminal charges and disciplinary matters.”
Inside the firm, Craig has also made his mark. “My co-managing member role calls upon an entirely different skill set. Managing the operational needs of the firm and participating in its internal growth and direction while maintaining my very active practice is both very challenging and rewarding.”
In October 2016 Craig established a pro-bono program for his office. “We partner with the Nassau County Volunteer Lawyers Project to represent individuals in Landlord Tenant court who cannot otherwise afford representation. Nassau Suffolk Law Services is technically a client, but we provide our services at significantly reduced rates. Even so, I often write off a significant percentage of my services, and support them personally in other ways. In this way I give back to the community within my area of expertise.”
A member of the Metro NY Porsche Club of America for more than a decade, Craig participates in the Club’s autocross competitions and “Driver Education” (DE). Craig pilots a converted 1989 911 c-4, and has driven speeds of close to 140 miles/hr. He volunteers within the Club as a certified DE instructor. His favorite track is Watkins Glen in the Finger Lakes. “My car is vinyl-wrapped with the Bond name and logo.”
Craig says that what defines him most is his family. “My mother and father instilled in me that family always comes first. I’ve tried to instill that in my family as well. My best friends are my parents and wife.”