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A spreading stain

When he announced the federal charges brought last week against a former top aide to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, SUNY Polytechnic Institute’s president and six others, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara noted that “it turns out the state Legislature does not have a monopoly on crass corruption in New York.”

Lucky us. The stain of public corruption now has spread to the executive chamber and beyond.

Among those named in the complaint were Joseph Percoco, the former executive deputy secretary to Mr. Cuomo, and Alain Kaloyeros, the powerful top executive at SUNY Poly. According to prosecutors, the charges stem from a pair of “overlapping schemes involving bribery, corruption, and fraud in the award of hundreds of millions of dollars in New York State contracts and other official state actions.”

The charges were not entirely unexpected. With the convictions of former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos and his son, Adam, it seemed quite clear that Mr. Bharara’s office had trained its sights on the investigation of money flowing to upstate economic development initiatives.

Still, many observers were taken aback by the scope of the allegations and the fact that Mr. Kaloyeros stood among the accused.

In many ways, the new allegations seem cut from the same cloth as those brought in recent years against numerous state lawmakers. For example, they appear to be rooted in greed—for money and for power.

However, there are important differences as well. The alleged bribes and bid rigging were possible in part because of a lack of transparency in the use of private, state-funded entities to award contracts.

In response to the filing of charges in this case, Mr. Cuomo said he would transfer oversight of projects that fell under Mr. Kaloyeros to Empire State Development. But that’s unlikely to satisfy those who want more openness.

Some thought Mr. Bharara would bring charges against the governor himself. That did not happen. As a result, Mr. Cuomo has another opportunity to prove to New Yorkers and others that this state takes public corruption seriously.

9/30/2016 (c) 2016 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email rbj@rbj.net.

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