BUFFALO, N.Y. — Gov. Andrew Cuomo, addressing a scandal that has rocked his administration and its economic development initiatives, said Friday that while he finds the corruption allegations “reprehensible” and disappointing they won’t derail efforts to revitalize the upstate economy.
The Democrat addressed the corruption allegations against former aide and friend Joe Percoco and seven others head on during a speech in Buffalo. He said afterward he knew nothing about the allegations in advance.
“The situations that are laid out in the complaint were breathtaking to me when I read them,” Cuomo said following an expansion announcement at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery.
He said the charges against Percoco were particularly “emotional” to him because of Percoco’s long ties to the Cuomo family. Percoco began working for Cuomo’s father, the late Gov. Mario Cuomo, at age 19. At Mario Cuomo’s funeral last year, Andrew Cuomo called Percoco his father’s “third son.”
“Yesterday was the first time I didn’t miss him being here,” Andrew Cuomo said of his father, who died last year. “Because it would have broken his heart.”
Percoco’s attorney has said he will be vindicated.
Also charged in the case is SUNY Polytechnic Institute President Alain Kaloyeros, who had led many of Cuomo’s efforts to lure high-tech investment upstate. An attorney for Kaloyeros, who appeared in court Friday in Albany, has said he did nothing wrong.
Cuomo said the projects that had been overseen by Kaloyeros will be transferred to the Empire State Development Corp., the state’s main economic development agency.
U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara announced the charges on Thursday and said a ninth defendant, Todd Howe, another former Cuomo aide, pleaded guilty and was cooperating.
Cuomo said if the allegations turn out to be correct, “justice will be done, and they will pay the price.”
“I’m the former attorney general,” he said. “I put people in jail. Public trust is job one.”
Court papers allege Percoco took more than $315,000 in bribes from 2012 through 2016 from Syracuse-based COR Development, a construction and development firm, and from Braintree-Massachusetts-based Competitive Power Ventures, an energy company looking to build a power plant in the Hudson Valley.
Howe, a consultant for the two companies, set up bank accounts and a shell company to funnel bribes, including payments to Percoco’s wife, the complaint said. Howe pleaded guilty Tuesday.
Percoco’s attorney, Barry Bohrer, called the case “an overreach of classic proportions.”
Percoco resigned from the administration in 2014 to lead Cuomo’s re-election campaign. He returned in late 2014 before leaving again in January to become a vice president at Madison Square Garden.
An executive at Competitive Power Ventures, Peter Galbraith Kelly Jr., is accused in the complaint of conspiracy and paying bribes to Percoco. The company said Kelly, who couldn’t be located for comment, no longer works there.
Authorities accused Percoco of conspiring with Kaloyeros and Howe to ensure lucrative state bids would go to COR Development and Buffalo contractor LPCiminelli. They said Kaloyeros retained Howe to help him and Howe in turn solicited and received bribes.
The state will change the way it awards future projects, Cuomo said.
Also charged were COR Development executives Steven Aiello and Joseph Gerardi and LPCiminelli executives Michael Laipple, Kevin Schuler and CEO Louis Ciminelli. LPCiminelli said company officials “acted appropriately and legally” and will be vindicated. COR didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Klepper reported from Albany.