Buffalo Billion verdicts warrant further action

Testimony raised enough red flags about the possibility of a wider conspiracy to warrant further investigation
Reporting, analysis and commentary
by Jim Heaney, editor of Investigative Post

Alain Kaloyeros has been known as many things during his career. Dr. K. Near genius. Nanotech guru. And as of Thursday, convicted criminal.

Ditto for Lou Ciminelli. Civic leader. Power broker. Philanthropist. And yes, convicted felon.

Down the list of defendants we go.

Guilty. Guilty. Guilty. And, at the risk of repeating myself, guilty.

It was a good day for clean contracting, for good government. But the job is far from done.

Testimony during the trial established that the governor’s office installed Todd Howe, a longtime Cuomo associate, as the administration’s “eyes and ears” inside the operation that Kaloyeros headed up. Further testimony suggested that Howe, in turn, was up to plenty of no good.

Knowing Kaloyeros, I think he most likely chafed initially at Howe’s insertion into his operation, but according to testimony, he accepted it to solidify his position with Cuomo.

I think it’s likely that, at least at the outset, Kaloyeros didn’t give a damn about steering contracts to major Cuomo contributors. Rather, the scheme was hatched elsewhere and delivered to Kaloyeros to execute. Then again, playing fast and loose had long been a part of his MO.

This is not to absolve Kaloyeros, but to say others may very well have been involved – others who were not on trial, others in position of authority in state government. The trial certainly raised enough red flags to warrant further digging.


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It behooves federal prosecutors to continue their investigation based on what was revealed in the trial to determine the full extent of the corruption. Howe has already turned state’s evidence, so investigating this angle isn’t necessarily an onerous undertaking. The feds may already know, for that matter.

Regardless, the public deserves a full accounting, it deserves to know if Cuomo and/or his lieutenants have been running this corner of state government as a criminal enterprise. The only way to know is for the U.S. Attorney to continue his work.

That’s not all that needs to happen.

Cuomo has stubbornly fended off efforts to reform key elements of the state’s economic development programs. This, even in the face of scandal. (Talk about tone-deaf.)

A coalition of organizations pushing for reform, including NYPIRG and Reinvent Albany, reacted to the guilty verdict by reissuing their call for reform. The groups said the state’s continued use of nonprofits like the Fort Schuyler Management Corp. to award billions in taxpayer-funded grants “is ripe for abuse, pay to play and corruption.”

The groups also noted a lack of transparency, lax contracting rules and inadequate oversight by the state comptroller.

A sensible package of reforms passed the Senate this legislative session but stalled in the Assembly where Speaker Carl Heastie – no doubt in cahoots with Cuomo – refused to allow a vote on the measure.

Cuomo and Heastie need to relent, Comptroller Tom DiNapoli needs to assert himself, and the Legislature needs to reconvene and approve the measure. To do otherwise is to continue to enable the corruption exposed in the Kaloyeros-Ciminelli trial.

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The trial provides the Buffalo Billion with an unwelcome, but deserved epitaph.

The program has been more sizzle than steak from the beginning, intended first and foremost to burnish Cuomo’s reputation.

The result of spending all that taxpayer money is:

What Buffalo will end up getting from the Billion – if everything pans out, and the early returns are not promising – is about 2,200 direct positions at a cost approaching $500,000 per job.

Suffice to say, that’s a lousy ROI.

But what Buffalo mostly gets is another black eye, another “what if” to lament.

To “Wide Right” and “No Goal” we can now add “Buffalo Billion.”