When the mighty fall, ar­ro­gance is of­ten at root

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - OPINION - Alan Char­tock Sun­day Free­man colum­nist Alan Char­tock is a pro­fes­sor emer­i­tus at the State Univer­sity of New York, pub­lisher of the Leg­isla­tive Gazette and CEO of the WAMC North­east Pub­lic Ra­dio Net­work. Read­ers can email him at alan@wamc.org.

As a life­long SUNY pro­fes­sor, I have taken a par­tic­u­lar in­ter­est in Dr. Alain Kaloyeros. Though most peo­ple have prob­a­bly never heard of him, this guy is one of the most tal­ented peo­ple to ever work for the State Univer­sity of New York. He was the linch­pin of An­drew Cuomo’s plan to re­ju­ve­nate up­state New York, and boy, was he ever good at his job. He led the high-tech pha­lanx of peo­ple who would eco­nom­i­cally re­vi­tal­ize up­state com­mu­ni­ties. He brought jobs and peo­ple into the Al­bany area and was touted as a ge­nius.

Per­son­ally, I never liked the guy. Per­haps it was be­cause of the enor­mous salary he earned, mak­ing him the very top earner among New York’s state em­ploy­ees. He earned more money than Gov­er­nor Cuomo or any of the other con­sti­tu­tional of­fi­cers in New York. He drove ex­pen­sive for­eign cars that knocked your eyes out and was quite the man about town.

He also had the rep­u­ta­tion of be­ing un­touch­able. He was the fa­vorite of one gov­er­nor af­ter another. When I sug­gested to my col­leagues, “The big­ger they are, the harder they fall,” I was pooh-poohed and warned that I was ask­ing for more trou­ble than I could han­dle. They meant it. How­ever, my in­tu­ition was al­ways that this guy was too big to fail, like the great banks in New York who got away scot-free from all their ex­cesses that led to the 2008 melt­down.

Then the great Preet Bharara, the big­gest fed since El­liot Ness, cast his net wide. Charges were brought against two of An­drew Cuomo’s clos­est as­so­ci­ates and, among oth­ers, Alain Kaloyeros. Not only did Bharara bring charges but in a highly un­usual move, so did State At­tor­ney Gen­eral Eric Sch­nei­der­man. The charges sug­gest that Kaloyeros was in­volved in bidrig­ging which fa­vored cer­tain con­trac­tors over oth­ers.

Why would a man who seem­ingly has it all put his life and free­dom at risk? When­ever I ex­plore this ques­tion, I come up with a sin­gle word: “ar­ro­gance.” When gov­er­nors kiss your feet and when you are too big to fail, you be­gin to be­lieve your own press no­tices and ap­par­ently, that’s ex­actly what Kaloyeros did. I know it’s not right, but when the mighty fall, I al­ways feel sorry for them. Some get into money trou­bles; they overex­tend them­selves; they need col­lege tu­ition for their kids. In some cases, how­ever, they get drunk with power. It isn’t as if they don’t know the rules. We have a bid­ding process in place so that ev­ery­one has an equal chance to get awarded the build­ing con­tracts.

As for Kaloyeros, we all read or heard about his threats of ret­ri­bu­tion against those who were kick­ing him when he was down. He pru­dently re­signed from his ad­min­is­tra­tive po­si­tions which paid him great sums of money but re­cently an­nounced that he would main­tain his tenured pro­fes­sor­ship that paid him, — get this — an an­nual salary (ac­cord­ing to the Al­bany Times Union) of $801,700. Trust me, when I was a pro­fes­sor at SUNY I still had to take sec­ond jobs to get by.

This is all very trou­bling. Kaloyeros is a ge­nius. He may be ar­ro­gant, but he was bring­ing home the ba­con. He has se­ri­ously em­bar­rassed his bosses at the State Univer­sity who now have to de­cide whether to let him earn his huge salary as a fac­ulty mem­ber at SUNY Poly. Some­how, through high level sleight of hand, state Comp­trol­ler Tom Di­napoli was de­prived of get­ting the whole pic­ture of what was go­ing on through his au­dit­ing func­tion for all state agen­cies. As the old song goes, “Who’s laugh­ing now?”

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