Ad­vo­cates press Gov. Cuomo to ad­dress bid-rig­ging scan­dal

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - OBITUARIES - By Kyle Hughes NYSNYS News

Ad­vo­cates urged Gov. An­drew Cuomo to take steps to pre­vent a re­peat of the sort of bid-rig­ging scan­dal that has re­sulted in crim­i­nal charges against his for­mer top aides and as­so­ciates.

“The pub­lic has not for­got­ten that in Septem­ber, high-level of­fi­cials in state govern­ment were ar­rested for rig­ging eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment con­tracts works more than $780 mil­lion — nor can you,” they wrote in a let­ter re­leased Tues­day. “Any cred­i­ble at­tempt to re­store the pub­lic trust in govern­ment must in­clude ma­jor re­forms that give the pub­lic con­fi­dence that the state’s eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment spend­ing is clean and ac­count­able.”

They were re­fer­ring to the fed­eral pros­e­cu­tion of Cuomo’s for­mer top aide Joe Per­coco, for­mer SUNY Poly Pres­i­dent Alain Kaloyeros, and lob­by­ist and long­time Cuomo as­so­ciate Todd Howe on cor­rup­tion charges re­lated to al­leged big-rig­ging on mas­sive eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment projects in up­state New York.

The let­ter to Cuomo from the League of Women Vot­ers, Rein­vent Albany, Com­mon Cause and other groups came as a state com­pen­sa­tion com­mis­sion took no ac­tion on a pro­posed pay raise for state leg­is­la­tors and top govern­ment of­fi­cials.

The move could prod Cuomo and leg­is­la­tors to re­turn for a spe­cial ses­sion be­fore Dec. 31 tied to a deal on a pay in­crease, since the com­mis­sion study­ing the is­sue goes into le­gal limbo after to­day.

In a state­ment, Cuomo spokesman Rich Az­zopardi called the sit­u­a­tion a “stale­mate,” say­ing the main is­sue was whether the job of a leg­is­la­tor was full or part-time.

“The peo­ple of the state are univer­sally op­posed to a raise from the (cur­rent pay of) $79,500 for a part time salary,” he said. “The Gov­er­nor be­lieves the mem­bers should keep work­ing at it be­cause they have un­til the end of the year.”

“The idea that a pay raise could be lumped in with a larger scale agree­ment on some of the is­sues we’ve been talk­ing about now, that wouldn’t sur­prise me a one bit be­cause that’s the way Albany op­er­ates,” said Blair Horner of NYPIRG. “It’s ‘Big Uglies.’ “

Big Ugly is a slang by used by leg­is­la­tors and lob­by­ists to de­scribed the kind of deals that are com­mon in Albany when dis­parate is­sues are tied to­gether in one pack­age to be voted up or down. The same tac­tic was used in 1998 when the last pay raise went through as part of a deal that in­clude cre­at­ing char­ter schools.

Cuomo has al­ready called for a lame-duck spe­cial ses­sion to ap­prove a re­newal of the 421-a tax abat­ment pro­gram that is tied up with the cre­ation of af­ford­able hous­ing in New York City. He has also ex­pressed sup­port for ethics re­forms

The groups called for five changes to clean up the state’s con­tract pro­cure­ment process, in­clud­ing com­pet­i­tive bid­ding on all state con­tracts and re­mov­ing the au­thor­ity of SUNY and non­profit af­fil­i­ates from award­ing eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment con- tracts.

The money would in­stead be dis­pensed through the Em­pire State De­vel­op­ment Corp.

They also said Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli should re­view all state con­tracts worth more than $250,000, mem­bers of state boards should be pro­hib­ited from do­ing busi­ness with their agen­cies, and the state should cre­ate a “Data­base of Deals” to let the pub­lic see all the tax­pay­ers sub­si­dies handed out to busi­nesses.

Cuomo was trav­el­ing up­state Tues­day and again ex­pressed sup­port for re­forms in the Leg­is­la­ture.

“As long as you have a leg­is­la­tor who is re­ceiv­ing out­side in­come and also get­ting paid by the pub­lic, you’re go­ing to have an in­her­ent con­flict of in­ter­est,” he told re­porters at a stop in Bing­ham­ton.

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