by Jim Heaney, editor of Investigative Post
I did a slew of interviews Thursday after news broke that U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara indicted three Cuomo insiders and five development company officials on a variety of corruption charges. One question came up time and time again: “Was I surprised?” The answer, in a word, is “No.”
I spelled out my reasoning in a blog post back in May. As I wrote then:
The Cuomo crowd is obsessed with secrecy and operates with the mistaken notion that the rules don’t apply to them. The governor may or may not have knowledge of the supposed misdeeds of some of his associates, but he has most certainly created an environment that’s made state government susceptible to official misconduct.
To which I’ll add: Cuomo was not charged Thursday, but two of his close associates were, along with the bureaucrat he entrusted with his supposed Job 1, revitalizing the upstate economy. The governor was not indicted, but he has been tainted, and for good reason. This mess happened under his watch. Are we expected to believe that Cuomo, a notorious control freak, had no clue as to what was going on within the highest levels of his administration?
The indictments cast a huge cloud over Cuomo’s upstate initiative, involving big-ticket projects in Buffalo, Dunkirk, Rochester, Syracuse, Utica and Albany. If we believe, or at least suspect, the shenanigans didn’t end with projects in Buffalo and Syracuse named in the indictment, there is a case to be made to put everything on hold. In fact, given the deep involvement of the now indicted Alain Kaloyeros in almost all the projects, can the state do anything other than put a freeze on the projects?
While Bharara and State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman continue their work, state legislators need to get busy. The first order of business ought to be stripping the Fort Schuyler and Fuller Road Management Corporations of any power to handle state funded projects. Kaloyeros used the two nonprofits to shield his activities from public scrutiny by claiming they were private entities, as I detailed in my original report. It’s time to put them out of business.
One final thought: The indictments, if they hold up in court, detail a betrayal of Buffalo and Western New York. The SolarCity project is the centerpiece of a billion dollar investment intended to help lift the community out of its economic doldrums. That it was used to instead benefit a handful of insiders is unconscionable.
Investigative Post’s reporting gave prosecutors a heads up that something was amiss with the Buffalo Billion. We’ve spent three years pursuing the story. It’s hasn’t been easy or cheap. Consider making a donation to help us continue our work.