Cuomo says his 2017 agenda will include anti-corruption reforms
It’s been a week since a federal corruption investigation exploded in New York state, bringing fraud and bribery and charges against developers and state officials for allegedly running a pay-to-play scheme involving upstate economic development projects.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo admits it’s been an emotional time for him personally because one of the accused, Joseph Percoco, is a former top aide and a longtime Cuomo family friend.
“You know someone for a long period of time and you trust them and, according to the complaint at least, they violated the public trust, which has been critical to me and my father before me," Cuomo said.
Cuomo said he had no knowledge of any alleged kickback scheme. He said his job now is to recoup any taxpayer dollars owed the state and make sure that the economic development projects involved go forward.
He said his State of the State message next January will include a reform package that will provide more checks and balances when it comes to awarding state economic development contracts. Cuomo said the contracts went through SUNY Poly, not the executive branch, which is why there was not much oversight in the past.
"They were probably the greatest economic development success New York has ever seen," Cuomo said. "It transformed the capital district, so there was no apparent reason to look at this other agency and get involved. Now there is.”
Cuomo has already transferred the handling of economic development projects to the State Economic Development Corporation.
Cuomo said there were no red flags that would have made his campaign think twice about accepting donations from a Syracuse area development company. But now the governor said that the more than $300,000 donated by COR Development over the past decade will be put aside for the time being until a federal corruption case is settled.
"We’re going to set up a separate account, put those funds in a segregated account," Cuomo said. "Wait 'til the case is finished. If the U.S. attorney is requiring forfeiture of assets, we’ll have those funds for the U.S. attorney for that purpose.”
Two executives with COR are accused of taking part in a pay-to-play scheme in order to get lucrative state contracts. Some other politicians have decided to return any contributions received from COR and associates.