Corruption probe cast cloud over SUNY
The corruption scandal swirling around some of Gov. Cuomo’s aides has cast a cloud over SUNY.
The corruption and contract-fixing scandal swirling around some of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s top aides and campaign donors has cast a cloud over SUNY that will likely not go away anytime soon.
This week SUNY Provost Alexander Cartwright, who has temporarily taken over for ousted SUNY Poly President Alain Kaloyeros, took steps to try to return normalcy to the flagship campus as well as a satellite campus in Utica, promising that the academic mission will “proceed without interruption.”
The move came as Cuomo blamed SUNY for the scandal, saying its procurement system opened the door to massive fraud. SUNY officials didn’t dispute Cuomo’s assertion.
Asked during a stop in Syracuse to explain allegations of “corruption happening in your office, right under your nose,” Cuomo he knew nothing because “this happened through the State University of New York, the SUNY system’s purchasing and procurement process. And the allegations are that nine individuals basically defrauded the procurement process.”
Federal prosecutors have also alleged Cuomo’s former top aide, Joe Percoco, took hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes from a utility company seeking state guarantees for power purchases worth millions of dollars. Those alleged payoffs had nothing to do with SUNY.
In Syracuse, Cuomo repeated his statement that he knew nothing about the corruption scheme until the FBI swooped in and charged nine of his associates. One has already pleaded guilty to all charges, lobbyist Todd Howe of Washington, D.C., a longtime aide and associate of the Cuomo family.
Cuomo has not been accused of any wrongdoing.
The alleged SUNY crimes involve both Howe and Kaloyeros, who is credited with building SUNY Poly, recognized internationally as a center for technology research and development. He was suspended without pay as president of SUNY Poly after his arrest and his presence has been wiped from the campus, including the removal of billboard size photo posters he had erected of himself posing with Cuomo and others.
It doesn’t appear Kaloyeros is going quietly. “Never kick me when I’m down, because when I get back up ... you’re f---d,” he posted this week in a meme on Facebook that was later taken down.
As he had in Buffalo when news of the arrests first broke, Cuomo focused his Syracuse comments on the economic development projects, not the bombshell charges that his aides and donors conspired to fix contracts in exchange for money for his re-election campaign and bribes.
“My focus is on getting the projects up and getting the projects running,” Cuomo said. “The developers that the U.S. Attorney is looking at, basically the service they provided was they built buildings. We have the buildings, the buildings were built. The buildings were built on time and on budget and we’re now using the buildings.”
“If the U.S. Attorney proves that the state was ripped off and it cost the taxpayers money, we’ll go after that money to return it to the taxpayers,” he added. “But we have the buildings, the buildings are built. I now want to make sure and move forward to get those business in those building and get those jobs created, because that’s what it’s all about.” The building projects are located in Albany, Syracuse and Buffalo, where the biggest has been completed — a $750 million state-owned factory for a company called SolarCity.
Lobbyist Howe, 56, has pleaded guilty and is cooperating with U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara’s prosecution of the others. Howe, who was a confidant of Cuomo and a former close aide to Mario Cuomo, pleaded guilty to eight felony charges relating to honest services fraud, extortion, wire fraud, bribery and tax fraud. He faces 20 years in prison.
The others facing an assortment of felony charges include his former top aide Percoco, 47, of South Salem; SUNY Poly President Alain Kaloyeros, 60, of Slingerlands; Joseph Nicolla, 59, of Schenectady, the president of Columbia Development; Peter Galbraith Kelly Jr., 53, of Canterbury, Connecticut, a utility executive accused of making payoffs to Percoco; Steven Aiello, 58 of Fayetteville, president of COR Development, a SUNY contractor; Joseph Gerardi, 57, of Fayetteville, COR’s general counsel; Louis Ciminelli, 61, of Buffalo, the president of LCCiminelli; and company executives Michael Laipple, 51, of Orchard Park; and Kevin Schuler, 45 of North Tonawand, who are charged with helping to rig state contracts so that LPCiminelli would be chosen to build the $750 million factory Cuomo is leasing to SolarCity for $1 a year.
Alain Kaloyeros, president of SUNY Polytechnic Institute awaits his arraignment on state charges while sitting in a courtroom at Albany City Courthouse on Sept. 23 in Albany. The state complaint alleges Kaloyeros agreed to steer construction contract awards to hand-picked companies.