A federal jury in New York has convicted key players of corruption in Gov. Andrew Cuomo's “Buffalo Billion” economic redevelopment program.
The jury in Manhattan federal court returned its verdict Thursday after a month-long trial that put a spotlight on how lucrative contracts were awarded for redevelopment projects in Syracuse and Buffalo that were worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
The jury, after deliberating for just over a day, found Alain Kaloyeros, the former head of SUNY Polytechnic College and mastermind of Cuomo’s upstate economic development programs, guilty of bid rigging, when he helped steer lucrative contracts for projects including Buffalo’s $750 million Solar City factory to favored developers.
Three upstate developers. Louis Ciminelli of Buffalo’s LP Ciminelli and two principals in the Syracuse-based COR development company were also found guilty of participating in the scheme.
Cuomo who was not implicated in the case issued a statement, saying "The jury has spoken and justice has been done” and that those who committed “such an egregious act should be punished to the full extent of the law."
The governor has said he didn’t know that any of the bid rigging activities were going on.
Cuomo’s opponents in the race for governor pounced. Democratic primary challenger Cynthia Nixon said that she does not know for sure whether the governor, known as a micromanager, ever knew about the activities of those who ran his economic development programs, saying “Andrew Cuomo is either corrupt or he is spectacularly incompetent.”
The Republican candidate for governor, Marc Molinaro, blamed Cuomo, saying he “empowered, emboldened and encouraged individuals to bend the rules, rig the system and defrauded taxpayers.”
It’s the second of two federal corruption trials involving former Cuomo associates. Earlier this year, Cuomo’s former closest aide, Joe Percoco, was convicted of bribery.
Blair Horner, who heads up the reform organization New York Public Interest Research Group, says it’s another in an “unbelievable series of scandals that have rocked the Capitol.
“Just a few months ago the governor’s top aide was convicted of corruption. And now the governor’s former top economic advisor has been convicted as well, and I think it underscores serious problems in the way the government gives out state contracts.”
Horner says it’s “stunning” that so far Cuomo and the legislature have not changed the laws to prevent similar corruption in the future.
“We think the Governor should call for a special session devoted, with laser-like focus, on the issue of how to combat corruption, how to clean up the contracting process, and how to make the legislative branch also more accountable to the public that it serves. That needs to happen.”