Assembly, Senate Spend More For Lawyers

The state Assembly and Senate spent thousands of dollars on legal fees last month, according to contract approvals from the state comptroller’s office.

In the Democratic-led Assembly, a $227,000 contract for Hogan Lovells was approved for defense in pending sexual harassment litigation. An additional $23,000 was approved for Rossein Associates, an outside counsel the chamber hired to develop a sexual harassment policy and conduct investigations.

An additional $3,000 each was spent for outside counsel for an independent sexual harassment investigation by Roemer Wallens Gold & Mineaux LLP, while Whiteman Osterman & Hanna LLP was hired for outside counsel for the appeals process in the Assemblyman Micah Kellner case.

Kellner was accused of conducting sexual explicit chats online with legislative aides; he later sought to have his punishment imposed by then-Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver overturned.

Meanwhile, in the Republican-led state Senate, $381,000 was approved for legal fees for former Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno to the firm O’Connell & Aronowitz.

IG: Nothing But Mitchell’s “Full Cooperation Will be Tolerated”

The woman who helped Richard Matt and David Sweat escape from a Clinton County prison has agreed to cooperate in an investigation into the incident as part of her plea deal, the state’s Inspector General said today.

Joyce Mitchell, a former Clinton Correctional employee, plead guilty to promoting prison contraband and criminal facilitation in Clinton County Court this morning. As part of the plea deal, she’ll serve a maximum of seven years in prison starting in September. She’ll also have to cooperate in an investigation by the state’s Inspector General, Catherine Leahy Scott.

Scott was charged with the investigation in June following the breakout, which would become a 21-day manhunt. Richard Matt was killed by authorities during the chase. David Sweat was injured, but recovered after spending time at a hospital in Albany.

In a statement following Mitchell’s plea this morning, the Inspector General said nothing but Mitchell’s “full cooperation will be tolerated.”

Today’s plea by Joyce Mitchell makes clear her culpability in the systemic breakdown that led to the escape of two cold-blooded killers. I thank District Attorney Wylie for ensuring at my request that the plea agreement include full cooperation by Mitchell with my ongoing investigation.  Nothing short of her full cooperation will be tolerated, and I am confident that when she fulfills this obligation, I will provide a thorough and complete accounting of all the factors contributing to this elaborate breakout, with an eye toward ensuring this never happens again.

 

Senate Dems Won’t Sue Over SAFE Act MOU

From the Morning Memo:

When the Senate Republicans made a surprise announcement of the memorandum of understanding they had signed with a top Cuomo administration aide that appeared to indefinitely delay a key provision of the SAFE Act, the Senate Democrats immediately cried foul.

The minority conference questioned the legality of the MOU, signed by Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan and state Operations Director Jim Malatras, which seemed to derail creation of a database for ammunition sale background checks.

Deputy Senate Minority Leader Mike Gianaris said the Senate and Assembly Democrats were in talks about a potential legal challenge to the MOU, which he saw as a slippery slope and something that established a dangerous precedent.

Even as the Senate GOP declared victory – a claim gun rights advocates said was overblown – the Cuomo administration immediately downplayed the significance of the MOU, insisting the database would still go ahead as planned, though failing to explain exactly how and when that would occur.

Apparently, the administration’s assurances were sufficient to quell the Senate Democrats’ concerns – at least in the short term. During a CapTon interview last night, Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins revealed the conference is no longer planning to pursue legal action.

“At this point…I take him at his word that this will not stop anything,” the Yonkers Democrat said. “It will not weaken anything. And what I’m looking for is a timeline as to when we will be getting this done. That’s where we are right now.”

“I think the governor understands that that’s where everybody who supported the SAFE Act is,” Stewart-Cousins continued. “And I expected that to happen.”

Stewart-Cousins reiterated that neither she nor any members of her conference support any weakening of the SAFE Act. But she did not provide a deadline as to when she expects the Cuomo administration to provide a timeline for achieving the ammunition database.

According to the MOU, the Senate GOP has to sign off on any expenditure of state money that would be used to create the database.

But Flanagan, who continues to be under fire from the right for voting “yes” on the controversial gun control law, is unlikely to approve funding any time soon – especially not with the special election for ex-Deputy Senate Majority Leader Tom Libous’ seat this fall and the 2016 rematch for control of the majority looming.

The SAFE Act is likely to be a factor in the special election for Libous’ Binghamton district – a GOP dominated area where opposition to the gun control law remains strong. The Democrats’ candidate – Cuomo’s ex-DMV Commissioner and former Broome County Executive Barbara Fiala – has yet to discuss her position on the issue publicly.

Cuomo last week surprised many by publicly declaring his support for Fiala, who is also the interim chair of his Women’s Equality Party, even before she declared her candidacy. (She’s scheduled to do so later this week).

The Senate Democrats and the governor have been at odds over the past year, following Cuomo’s failure to significantly follow through on his pledge to help the conference in its 2014 quest to win back the majority.

Cuomo promised to help the Senate Democrats as part of the deal he cut to receive the ballot line of the labor-backed Working Families Party. But aside from a few endorsements (mostly made via press release) and joint appearances, the governor didn’t exactly pull out all the stops to assist his fellow Democrats.

The GOP ended up taking the majority – albeit by a very slim margin that could be imperiled if the Democrats win the Libous seat. However, even Stewart-Cousins admits that’s a long shot. She says the minority conference is setting its sights on 2016 when presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton might top the ticket and pull more New York Democrats than usual to the polls.

Fiala Plans To Run On Her Resume

From the Morning Memo:

Soon-to-be Democratic Senate candidate Barbara Fiala plans to launch a bid for the chamber that will rely heavily on her resume as both an elected and appointed state official.

“I don’t know of another candidate that will have the broad range of experience that I have,” Fiala told TWC News in an interview. “Being a commissioner, being in the cabinet and traveling the state — listening to the people.”

Fiala is both a former Broome County executive and commissioner in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s cabinet, leading the Department of Motor Vehicles during his first term.

Fiala is expected to announce on Thursday her campaign for the seat formerly held by Sen. Tom Libous, a Binghamton Republican who was ousted from the Senate after he was convicted on a charge of lying to the FBI.

Running on her experience with the Cuomo administration, of course, has its pitfalls: The district has a Republican enrollment advantage and Cuomo’s policies among upstate conservatives — including the gun-control law known as the SAFE Act — remain deeply unpopular.

Fiala in the interview said her experience is a net benefit to her campaign. Cuomo worked his cabinet during that first term, taking a somewhat unorthodox strategy by deploying them to spread the push for his agenda around the state.

“I listened to a lot of people in different parts of the state,” she said. “In this area in the Southern Tier it comes down to jobs and good paying jobs.”

At the same time, Fiala may be hoping voters want a lawmaker in Albany — regardless of party — who can bring the same level of contacts and influence in state government that Libous had amassed over decades in power.

As for whether she’s launching a campaign too soon after Libous, a former deputy majority leader first elected in 1988 and found guilty only last week, Fiala said the time to get the campaign underway is now.

“The election is in November and all the time the people are without a representative it really hurts the area,” she said. “I don’t know what ‘too early’ means.”

Here and Now

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in Warren County and New York City.

At 8 a.m., LG Kathy Hochul speaks At the Buffalo Niagara Partnership Board meeting about the governor’s economic development and tax relief measures, 665 Main St., Suite 200, Buffalo.

At 10 a.m., Cuomo attends the NYS Laborer’s meeting, The Sagamore, 110 Sagamore Rd., Bolton Landing.

Also at 10 a.m., Hochul joins state and local officials at a ribbon cutting to celebrate the extension of a Greenway nature trail, Buffalo Outer Harbor, corner of Michigan Avenue and Fuhrmann Boulevard, Buffalo.

Also at 10 a.m., NYC Councilman Jumaane Williams cohosts the eighth annual job fair at Brooklyn College.

At 11 a.m., Onondaga County GOP Chair Tom Dadey and DeWitt GOP Chair Matt Wells will introduce the Republican candidate for DeWitt Town Supervisor. The seat in currently held by Democrat Edward Michalenko, GOP HQ, 2910 Erie Blvd. East, Syracuse.

Also at 11 a.m., the Commission on Statewide Attorney Discipline, created by Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman to conduct a comprehensive review of the state’s attorney disciplinary system, 20 Eagle St., Albany.

At 11:30 a.m., NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio holds a press conference, City Hall steps, Manhattan.

Also at 11:30 a.m., the Assembly Environmental Conservation Committee holds a roundtable discussion on climate change, 250 Broadway, Manhattan.

At noon, Hochul meets with veterans and seniors, VFW Hendershott Manness Post, 550 Main St., Arcade.

Also at noon, Brooklyn BP Eric Adams will advance his “Cut the Salt, Curb the Sugar” initiative, a preventative health program in partnership with the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, by distributing free copies of his new low-sodium, low-sugar cookbook, Columbus Park, downtown Brooklyn.

At 12:45 p.m., Hochul visits Jim Youngers Farm, 7004 East Arcade Rd., Arcade.

At 1:45 p.m., Hochul tours Drasgow’s Machine Shop, a recipient of a regional economic development award, 4150 Poplar Tree Rd., Gainesville.

At 2:45 p.m., Hochul tours Wyoming County Agricultural Center, 36 Center St., Warsaw. (This event is closed to members of the press due to construction).

At 3:30 p.m., Hochul stops by Yummies Ice Cream to meet small business owners in recognition of National Ice Cream Month, 12 Center St., Warsaw.

At 6 p.m., Adams and civil rights attorney Norman Siegel will host a town hall at SUNY Downstate Medical Center in East Flatbush to investigate cases of tenant harassment throughout Brooklyn, 395 Lenox Rd., East Flatbush, Brooklyn.

At 6:30 p.m., hundreds of citizens from Queens march the streets of Downtown Jamaica to demand development that includes real affordability in housing, good union jobs for the local residents and anti-displacement policies that protect residents, Greater Allen AME Cathedral of New York, 11031 Merrick Blvd., Jamaica, Queens.

Headlines…

Eighteen months after calling LaGuardia Airport in Queens a “third-world facility,” Vice President Joe Biden was on hand at a Manhattan hotel as Gov. Andrew Cuomo map out a plan to replace the airport.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates the airport in northern Queens, estimates the overhaul will cost about $4 billion, most of which will go toward tearing down the Central Terminal Building, rebuilding it in place and augmenting it with a grand entry way.

“Three cheers for the governor,” says the New York Post, which deems the overhaul of LaGuardia is “long overdue.”

Biden and Cuomo also announced that the Rochester area would house the American Institute for Manufacturing Integrated Photonics, a more-than-$600 million partnership between the federal government, New York and a coalition of universities, non-profits, major businesses like General Electric and 20 other states.

While in Rochester Biden declared Cuomo “just about the best governor in the whole United States of America.”

Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, hoping to spur action on long-stalled plans for new Hudson River rail tunnels, sent a letter to the governors of New York and New Jersey urging them to meet with him in the next two weeks to map out a strategy for building new crossings.

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio and Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito seemed to have moved past her public rebuke of the mayor, whom she accused of trying to “save face at the expense of this Council” after he backed away from placing a cap on the car-hailing service Uber, while failing to give the Council credit for the negotiations.

Fred Heller, the owner of a yellow-cab company who rounded up nearly $50,000 for de Blasio’s campaign in 2013, has landed on the board of the city’s key economic development agency.

Legal payouts by New York City are forecast to spike 17.5 percent by the 2018-19 fiscal year, even as de Blasio’s administration has pumped millions of dollars into a new war on so-called frivolous litigation.

US Sen. Charles Schumer declared he’s not going to decide on the Iran nuke deal until he gets clear answers on what the consequences of approving or scuttling it would be.

Senate Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said last week’s conviction of state Sen. Tom Libous for lying to federal investigators was “tragic on so many levels.” She also hopes her conference can win the Republican’s Binghamton seat, as part of an overall push to re-take the majority.

More >

Extras

VP Joe Biden joked that he came to Rochester for “one reason…I thought Abby Wambach was going to be here.”

Former New York gubernatorial candidate Zephyr Teachout will take the reigns of the super-PAC meant to advocate for the destruction of all super-PACs. She’ll replace Harvard law professor Lawrence Lessig, who is an avowed supporter of campaign finance reform, as CEO of Mayday PAC.

The state Board of Elections will begin examining active campaign committees belonging to former office holders, Risa Sugarman, the board’s enforcement counsel, announced.

The state’s Fast Food Wage Board took one of its final steps today, approving a formal report recommending a $15-an-hour minimum wage for employees of the fast-food industry. In an apparent violation of the Open Meetings Law, the report was not made public.

Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins shares Cuomo’s trepidation about a special legislative session to address ethics reform.

Republicans are leading the effort to establish Billy Joel Boulevard in Hicksville, Long Island, but the fact that the singer is still alive has presented a stumbling block.

Billionaire former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has added fuel to rumors that he will run for mayor of London by purchasing a £17 million, or $26 million, house in the city’s Chelsea neighborhood.

Mayor Bill de Blasio says about 400,000 people have obtained New York City’s municipal ID card since the program was rolled out six months ago.

A plea deal is apparently in the works for former Dannemora prison worker Joyce Mitchell, who is accused of helping Richard Matt and David Sweat break out of Clinton Correctional Facility last month.

The NYT’s public editor provides a tick-tock of how the paper botched the Hillary Clinton email investigation story.

Clinton, the 2016 Democratic frontrunner, called GOP hopeful Mike Huckabee’s remark about how President Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran would send the Israelis “to the ovens” “offensive” and said it had gone too far.

Private sector employment around the state continued to rise between June 2014 and June 2015, with a 2.3 percent jump, nearly matching the nationwide growth rate of 2.4 percent, according to an analysis by the state Business Council’s research branch.

Republican 2016 candidate Donald Trump has a media handler.

Long Beach Democratic Party chairman Michael Zapson has filed nominating petitions for 120 Democratic committee slots along Nassau County’s South Shore in a power struggle with county Democratic Chair Jay Jacobs, who has called for Zapson to resign.

The deadline to submit project proposals to help the Albany, New York region win millions in state economic development money is days away.

Unionized Verizon employees from the Mid-Hudson Valley would be among the thousands to go on strike Saturday if a dispute over a new contract is not settled.

The Buffalo Bills have a new president.

Boston’s 2024 Olympic bid is over.

Cuomo, With Biden, Plans $4B Replacement For LaGuardia

LaGuardia Airport will be “transformed” under a $4 billion plan aimed at increasing taxiway space, expand transportation access and construct a unified terminal, Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday announced.

Cuomo made the announcement alongside Vice President Joe Biden at a meeting of the Association For A Better New York. Half of the upgrade project will be funded by private companies, which is due to start next year.

“New York’s going to get a new airport,” Cuomo said at the event unveiling the construction plans.

The announcement with Biden was the second event Cuomo held today with the vice president, who also appeared in Rochester to announce funding for a photonics institute in suburban Greece.

The project, which is still subject to approval that is expected in the first half of 2016, is expected to create 8,000 direct jobs with an additional 10,000 indirect jobs. It will be managed by LaGuardia Gateway Partners, a new private-public entity that is being chosen by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to build the project.

Should construction begin next year, the the majority of the first half of the project is due to open to passengers in 2019 and full completion is due 18 months after.

Delta Airlines will redevelop the second half of the unified terminal, and the company is expected to begin redevelopment of its own terminals alongside the LaGuardia Gateway Partners project.

Cuomo, at today’s announcement, derided the current state of the airport.

“LaGuardia is un-New York. You’ve heard the phrase un-American? LaGuardia is un-New York,” Cuomo said.

The unified terminal is due to be built closer to the Grand Central Parkway in order to enhance passenger access. In addition, the redesigned terminal will include an island-gate system so passengers can go to gates through raised pedestrian bridges that are high enough for aircraft to taxi below, and connect back to the main terminal.

The new facility would be built with an eye toward storm resistance — a design requirement needed after Hurricane Sandy led to the 100 million gallons of saltwater flooding the airport, leading to it being shutdown for two days.

The new entity LaGuardia Gateway Partners would be responsible for the designing, building, financing, operating and maintain the new terminal in a 35-year lease.

Crouch Not Running In SD-52

Republican Assemblyman Cliff Crouch on Monday said he was not running for 52nd Senate District, the seat vacated by GOP Sen. Tom Libous.

Crouch had expressed interest in the seat in the days after Libous was forced out of office following his conviction on a charge of lying to the FBI.

“In recent days, I have been approached by constituents, too many to count, who have been very positive, supportive and have encouraged me to run for State Senate,” Crouch said in a statement I have always been humbled and appreciative of all of their support since being elected to the State Assembly and they deserve the very best candidate to represent them in Albany. At this stage, however, I have declined to run for the 52nd Senate District.”

He added he will continue to spend time in the Assembly, adding he can’t commit to the time required to being a member of the Senate.

“It takes a lot of commitment and time to get to know constituents as a newly elected representative and there’s an expectation and obligation that their senator will be there for them for a while, and I regret that I cannot give them that commitment at this time,” Crouch said in a statement. “I would like to thank everyone in the Southern Tier for their gracious support and I look forward to continuing to work for them in Albany alongside the new senator of the 52nd Senate District.”

Republican Denver Jones over the weekend announced he would run for the Southern Tier Senate district. Meanwhile, a Libous ally and Broome County lawmaker, Jerry Marinich, is believed to be interested in the post as well.

Democrat Barbara Fiala, a former Cuomo cabinet member and Broome County executive, will launch her Senate campaign later this week.

Denver Jones Plans To Be On Ballot, No Matter What

Denver Jones, the Republican who unsuccessfully challenged Sen. Tom Libous last year for the GOP nomination, plans to run in the special election even if he doesn’t get the endorsement of local party officials.

“I still plan on being on the ballot, either through other parties or a third party,” Jones said in an interview with TWC News’s Emily Lorsch.

Jones lost to Libous in primary, receiving 4,232 votes to the longtime incumbent’s 7,563 votes in the four-county Southern Tier district.

Jones is likely to run an anti-establishment campaign: In the interview, he knocked state government leadership, which has currency in any election, but could help in a special election to replace a lawmaker who lost his seat due to a corruption conviction.

“We need people in Albany that are going to represent the people and we don’t have them,” Jones said. “There are various people who say it’s corrupt and we can’t do anything about it. They’ve got leadership who keeps the thumb under them or they have a career to look after.”

Potential Republican candidates include Assemblyman Cliff Crouch and Jerry Marinich, the chairman of the Broome County Board of Legislators.

Democrats are coalescing around Barbara Fiala, the former Broome County executive and DMV commissioner who is due to announce her candidacy later this week.

Fiala is backed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who took the unusual step (for him) of backing her bid before she announced her plans to run for the Libous seat.

This would be Jones second race he’s ever run, but said it’s his “civic duty” to do so.

“I don’t plan on being there for the rest of my life and this is something I feel I have to do,” he said.

Stewart-Cousins: Libous’s Seat Is Tough, But Winnable

Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins on Monday expressed confidence that a Democrat could win the heavily Republican 52nd Senate District, even as she acknowledged the special election would be a tough one to win.

“When you have great candidates you want to support them for all the right reasons and we should,” Stewart-Cousins said in an interview on The Capitol Pressroom. “There is nobody who is not thinking that for Democrats that particular seat is difficult. It’s the enrollment, it’s getting the right candidate.”

Libous was forced from office last week after he was convicted on a charge of lying to federal law enforcement in a case stemming from his son receiving a job at a politically connected law firm in Westchester County.

Democrats — along with Gov. Andrew Cuomo — are backing former Broome County Executive and Motor Vehicles Commissioner Barbara Fiala to run for the seat in a special election.

Flipping Libou’s seat would be a major victory for Democrats, who are also looking to 2016 as a year to make key gains in the chamber, which they held control of from 2008 through 2010.

“There are many glowing reviews about her as a person, her as a public servant,” Stewart-Cousins said of Fiala. “We’re excited, I’m excited, our conference is excited. I think this is a really great opportunity for us to not only expand the Democrats, our conference, but with another great woman added to the legislative count.”

The Libous district — which includes Binghamton and the Southern Tier region — has more active enrolled Republican voters than Democrats and has traditionally elected GOP officials.

But Stewart-Cousins said enrollment is secondary in a race when a candidate is strong enough.

“I always think it’s the candidate,” she said in the interview. “The candidate matters so much. People tend to vote for people in their party, but people listen, people can weight who should be representing them versus people who just have a party label.”

She added: “We know that’s going to be a tough seat and we’re willing to roll up our sleeves and do it right.”

Even with Hillary Clinton as the likely leader of the Democratic ticket next year, a Democratic takeover of the Senate isn’t a guarantee. Republicans have an alliance with the five-member Independent Democratic Conference and Simcha Felder, a Brooklyn Democrat, sits in the GOP conference.

“We are looking at increasing our chances substantially,” Stewart-Cousins said. “The possibilities are really very, very exciting. We’re preparing — everything place that we’re supposed to do, everything that we need to do, we’re preparing to be in the majority.”