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SUNY not all to blame for Cuomo administration scandal, say reformers


Gov. Andrew Cuomo said much of the responsibility for the alleged corruption scandal touching his administration is on the state university system, specifically SUNY Polytechnic Institute, which oversaw many of the contracts.

But reform groups say the governor is not telling the whole story.

Cuomo has made a few public appearances since U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara issued criminal complaints against nine people, including several close to Cuomo and two major upstate real estate developers.

When asked about the blame for the alleged wrongdoing, Cuomo places much on it on the state university system.

“I appoint people to the state university board, but it’s not in my office, quote, unquote,” Cuomo said recently.

Cuomo said the process used for awarding contracts to private developers, which is now the focus of federal bid-rigging charges, was created before he was governor.

“That was the system that had been in place, and apparently it worked fine for 15 years,” the governor said.

John Kaehny with the coalition Reinvent Albany said it’s true that the nonprofit entities Fort Schuyler Management and Fuller Road Management that handle the contracts were not formed by Cuomo. They were created under former Gov. George Pataki, beginning in the 1990s, to help build the Albany Nanotech Center.

But Kaehny said their activities ramped up under Cuomo and expanded to include projects like the billion-dollar economic development plan for Buffalo, and millions of dollars of other high-tech projects across upstate New York.

“Those tax dollars were proposed in the governor’s budget by the governor,” said Kaehny, who said Cuomo “at best” was approving money to “out of control” nonprofits and not keeping a proper eye on things.

“And at worst, his administration had a part in this giant bid-rigging scandal,” Kaehny said.

The governor was not named in the criminal complaints.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau Chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 public radio stations in New York State. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.