Cuomo Comments On Percoco’s ‘Abberration’

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Thursday gave his most expansive comments to date on the corruption case of his former close aide Joe Percoco, calling his behavior “an aberration.”

At the same time, Cuomo said Percoco’s appearances in the governor’s public office while running his re-election campaign in 2014 was to do “transition work.”

Percoco’s appearances in Cuomo’s Manhattan office was one of the main revelations from the trial in which he was found guilty on three counts of federal corruption charges related to a bribery and bid rigging scheme.

“When he left state government he would come back in the office to handle transition matters,” Cuomo said before taking part in a student walkout over gun violence in New York City. “He was there for a very long time. It was a very important position.”

But Cuomo noted that Percoco’s work in the office may have gone beyond the transitory work.

“There was a suggestion that there was and that was a violation of the rules,” he added.

Cuomo reiterated his call for a ban or limits on outside income for public elected officials. Cuomo himself has received hundreds of thousands of dollars from the publishing of a 2014 memoir “All Things Possible.”

Lawmakers have been resistant to a ban on outside income. They have not received a pay increase since 1999 and earn a base salary of $79,500 though many earn more in the form of stipends.

“The single best ethics reform which makes everything moot is no outside income in government,” Cuomo said. “The Legislature refuses it because they believe it is a part-time position. It’s not a part-time job. They work full time.”

The trial has also given new firepower to criticism of Cuomo from his Republican rivals, including gubernatorial candidates Marc Molinaro and John DeFrancisco. On Thursday, Cuomo said the criticism is false, separating himself from Percoco’s actions.

“Look at the facts. We’re in the political silly season and everyone can say what they want to say. But there are still facts,” he said. “This was a two year trial. There was no suggestion ever made that I had anything to do with anything. There was an exhaustive trial and there was never any suggestion it had anything to do with me.”

The comments this morning came after Cuomo stayed largely silent on the proceedings of the trial, which began in January. Cuomo at the time whenever asked about the case said he did not want to interfere with the judicial process. He was not called to testify in the case.

But the arrest of Percoco, a confidant once described by the governor as a veritable brother, has taken its toll on Cuomo at least personally.

“On a personal level, this is both sad and shocking. I feel for the Percoco family. He has two young daughters who are going to have to live with this trauma,” he said. “The behavior violates everything that my administration is about. We strive for total integrity and this is a total aberration from the people who work in the administration.”

Rep. Slaughter Treated For Concussion After Fall

A spokesperson for long-time Congresswoman Louise Slaughter said she is recovering from a fall last week at her Washington, D.C. residence. The 88 year old Democrat was taken to George Washington University Hospital to receive treatment and monitoring for a concussion.

Her office said she did not suffer any broken bones or fractures. She remains at the hospital.

“The congresswoman is tough as nails and she will bring that same spirit to this recovery,” Chief of Staff Liam Fitzsimmons said. “We appreciate the outpouring of support and the community’s patience during her recuperation. We will release additional information as it becomes available.”

In 2012, Slaughter spent a month in a Rochester hospital recovering from a broken leg she suffered when she fell during an event in New York City. She was unable to travel to Washington during the recovery period.

Slaughter has been a member of Congress for more than three decades. Republican Jim Maxwell is challenging the incumbent this year.

NY-19: Delgado Ad Highlights Door Knocking

Democratic congressional candidate Antonio Delgado on Wednesday released a TV ad highlighting his door-to-door campaigning ahead of the June primary.

The ad is part of a five-figure ad purchase that will air on broadcast and cable channels in the Hudson Valley House district.

Delgado is among the crowded field of Democrats vying to take on Republican Rep. John Faso in the competitive district that has long been a target for the party to flip.

“This TV ad is a reflection of our campaign,” Delgado said.

“I’ve spent the past year listening to folks in the Hudson Valley and Catskills. I’ve knocked on doors, made phone calls and attended events. And we’ve only just begun. This campaign is about you. Over the course of this campaign we will be highlighting the same issues we talked about in your doorways. This first ad will highlight the need for universal, quality, affordable health care. It’s time we had a representative that shows up and listens. My parents taught me that with hard work and discipline good things can happen. No one will work harder for the people in our region than I will.”

Percoco’s Guilty Verdict, Albany’s Timetable

From the Morning Memo:

About an hour before Joe Percoco learned his fate from a jury in Manhattan, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie predicted a relatively smooth passage of the budget, which due to pass two days ahead of schedule given the timing of Passover and Easter this year.

“We fully intend to be respectful of the Easter and Passover holidays,” Heastie said. “We don’t want to go up to March 31. I think the 28th and 29th are the days we’d like to have this wrapped up.”

By midday, Percoco, a former close aide and confidant to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, was found guilty of selling his office, as corruption has come past the doorstep of the executive branch in Albany.

What this means for the rest of the year in which politics and governing is becoming increasingly jumbled together is unclear.

Cuomo and Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan in statements both signaled, vaguely, for support of new ethics measures in the wake of the Percoco verdict.

Still, over the next two weeks, the Capitol already has a full plate, including a financial plan for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority that could include a congestion pricing system, a roughly $4 billion budget shortfall that is being closed, in part, with $1 billion in new taxes and a plan that would act as a workaround for a $10,000 federal cap on state and local taxes.

The Assembly’s own plan for the MTA and mass transit would apply various surcharges on ride hails, limousine service and taxicabs in Manhattan. It does not include the broader toll plan that is backed by Cuomo and transit advocates.

Given the advanced timetable, plus the issues at hand, it’s possible some of these provisions fall out of the negotiations and are deal with in the spring. But Heastie was confident they could — and perhaps should — get done in the budget agreement.

“I’d say the revenue raisers and dealing with the MTA should be done in the budget,” Heastie said. “Deadlines are something we always deal with here, so I’m not concerned we have two less days.”

Meanwhile, the year has had an unusually early injection of electoral politics in it. Republicans are lining up behind either state Sen. John DeFrancisco or Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro in the race for governor. Actress and public education advocate Cynthia Nixon increasingly appears to be a Democratic candidate to challenge Cuomo in a primary.

On the national stage, a GOP-aligned super PAC America Rising attacked Cuomo after the verdict.

“Today’s conviction of Governor Cuomo’s former chief of staff highlights the corrupt practices tolerated pervasive throughout the Cuomo administration,” said Alexandra Smith, the PAC’s executive director. “The political ramifications will continue to be a glaring red flag for voters as he ramps up efforts for a run in 2020.”

Cuomo himself won’t be in Albany today. He’s attending a student walkout at Leadership and Public Service High School in New York City, protesting mass shootings and gun violence.

Open Government Group Slams Authorities For Lack Of Transparency

From the Morning Memo:

It might seem like piling on, but the Buffalo Niagara Coalition for Open Government said it had started working on its report about public authority websites long before the recent reports of a so-called Golden Parachute for the executive director of the Erie County Water Authority. The results weren’t good.

Of 14 Western New York websites the group analyzed, only one – the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority – received a passing grade. The coalition looked at criteria like whether the authorities posted meeting agendas, minutes, and Freedom of Information Law information on their sites.

In the meantime, the water authority has been criticized for approving a potential $400,000 severance package for its executive director should he be pushed out by the incoming Democratic-controlled board.

“I thought, well this was going to be perfect timing, quite honestly. I wasn’t aware of the Golden Parachute as I don’t think anyone was because as we point out in our report, the Erie County Water Authority is one of the entities that does not post meeting agendas,” coalition president Paul Wolf said.

He said transparency issues are not just a problem for the water authority. In fact, the four local housing authorities received the worst grades, including the Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority which received a seven out of 100.

Part of the problem, Wolf said, is the state’s open meeting laws do not hold public authorities to the same standard the report did. He said New York needs to catch up with the times.

The coalition suggested several solutions, including mandating agenda documents and meeting minutes be posted online. It also suggested the state comptroller take a more active role in auditing authorities.

Finally, the coalition called out elected leaders who appoint authority leadership, saying they need to take responsibility for transparency issues.


Fighting For Children PAC Endorses Sepulveda

From the Morning Memo:

Fighting for Children, the political action committee that is pushing for the passage of the Child Victims Act, has endorsed Democratic state Senate candidate Luis Sepulveda in the 32nd district race.

The PAC, founded by businessman Gary Greenberg, is pushing candidates to support the bill that would make it easier for the survivors of childhood sexual abuse to file lawsuits.

“We are proud to endorse candidates committed to reforming the state’s statute of limitations for child sex abuse to better protect the children of New York,” said Greenberg, an abuse survivor himself.  

“Luis Sepulveda will be a great addition to New York’s Senate. A tireless commitment to families in His Bronx state Assembly district and beyond prove he will be a strong ally in our efforts to protect all children from evil predators.”

Sepulveda is running for the Bronx district vacated by Councilman Ruben Diaz, Sr. in a special election scheduled for April 24.

“We stand today with victims and their families, for justice,long denied and overdue,” Sepulveda said.

“I commend Fighting for Children PAC for their advocacy on behalf of victims of child sexual abuse and for raising awareness about this critical issue to protect all of our children.”

Here and Now

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in New York City.

Students around the state – and the nation – will be walking out of classes to protest gun violence exactly one month after the Parkland, FL massacre.

The state Legislature is in session in Albany.

This afternoon, Vice President Mike Pence participates in a swearing-in ceremony for Russ Vought as the deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget.

NYC First Lady Chirlane McCray and Deputy Mayor Palacio will be in Puerto Rico, where, among other things, they will tour a community health facility in Barrio Obrero, with the Mayor of San Juan, Carmen Yulin Cruz.

At 10 a.m., Cuomo, AFT President Randi Weingarten and UFT President Michael Mulgrew Join Students at Leadership and Public Service High School for the National School Walk-Out, Leadership and Public Service High School, 90 Trinity Pl., Manhattan.

Also at 10 a.m., Queens Borough President Melinda Katz joins the student-organized walkout at Benjamin N. Cardozo High School in solidarity with the national school walkout, 5700 223rd St., Queens.

Also at 10 a.m., LG Kathy Hochul participates in WE RISE: A Right to Safety as part of the national school walkout, Columbia High School, 962 Luther Rd., East Greenbushde Blasio will join students from Edward R. Murrow High School at the National School Walkout, where he will deliver remarks

Also at 10 a,m., NYC Mayor Bill will join students from Edward R. Murrow High School at the National School Walkout, where he will deliver remarks, 1600 Avenue L, Brooklyn.

At 10:30 a.m., Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer greets students at her northern Manhattan office, 431 W. 125th St., Manhattan.

At 11 a.m., actor Corey Feldman and USA volleyball player Sarah Powers-Barnhard attend a press conference calling on state Senate Republicans to stop blocking the passage of the Child Victims Act, state Capitol, Million Dollar Staircase, third floor, Albany.

At 11:30 a.m., 1199SEIU and the Greater New York Hospital Association hold a rally to urge the state Legislature to pass a budget that includes adequate funding for New York’s hospitals, nursing homes and home care workers, Times Union Center, 51 S. Pearl St., Albany. (Hochul is scheduled to attend and speak).

At noon, Assemblyman David Weprin and the Rikers Debate Project hold a public debate on whether people in prison should be given the right to vote, Legislative Office Building, LCA Press Room 130, Albany.

Also at noon, Assemblyman David Weprin, Correction Committee chair, will join the Rikers Debate Project to host a public debate on whether people in prison should be given the right to vote, LCA Press Room, 130, Legislative Office Building, Albany.

At 12:15 p.m., a group of House Democrats – including Rep. Adriano Espaillat – will release a letter to House and Senate leadership and appropriators, signed by a substantial number of members, requesting that the Dream Act be attached to the Omnibus spending bill slated for passage in the next week or so, House Triangle, Washington, D.C.

At 1 p.m., the Joel Giambra campaign for governor will hold “a major news conference” to discuss the candidate’s “marijiuana agenda” for the coming campaign, the Hotel Henry, 444 Forest Ave., second floor boardroom, Buffalo.

At 2:30 p.m., the state Child Welfare Coalition and the Citizens’ Committee for Children of New York urge state lawmakers to reject state budget cuts targeted at vulnerable children, youth and families, third floor, outside state Senate Chambers, state Capitol, Albany.

At 6 p.m., Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. will host his annual Irish Heritage and Culture celebration, at Rambling House in the Woodlawn section of The Bronx, 4292 Katonah Ave.

Also at 6 p.m., Citizen Action of New York, JustLeadershipUSA and other advocates discuss the devastating impacts of mass criminalization in Albany County and across the state, Greater St. John’s COGIC, 74 Fourth Ave., Albany.

At 6:30 p.m., the Manhattan GOP will hold a gubernatorial candidates screening in conjunction with the Metropolitan Republican Club, 122 E. 83rd St., Manhattan.

At 7 p.m., Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano delivers his State of the City address, Yonkers Riverfront Library, 1 Larkin Center, Yonkers.


The federal corruption conviction of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s former fixer and longtime top aide, Joe Percoco, further yoked the two-term governor to a broken culture in Albany that he has long tried to campaign against, marking a nadir in Cuomo’s governorship and only the start of a political headache that is likely to intensify.

Ken Lovett: “Percoco’s conviction is more like icing on the cake for the governor’s critics and political foes. Even before the three guilty verdicts on Tuesday, the eight-week trial shined a bright light on how the Cuomo administration operates — and it wasn’t pretty.”

In a split verdict, Percoco was convicted of soliciting and accepting more than $300,000 in bribes from executives working for two companies with state business, but not guilty of extortion and conspiracy to commit extortion.

In a statement issued several hours after the verdict, the governor said that while he was saddened for Percoco’s young daughters, he believed there should be “no tolerance: for lapses of integrity in public service.

Percoco’s lawyer Barry Bohrer says there will be an appeal.

The jury also convicted one of the businessmen charged with paying the bribes, Steven Aiello, an executive at a Syracuse area development company, Cor Development. A second executive with the company, Joseph Gerardi, was acquitted on all counts.

A lawyer for Aiello is planning to appeal what he called a “confusing” and “coerced” verdict that determined his client was guilty on one charge.

The jury deadlocked and a mistrial was declared in the case of a fourth defendant, energy company executive Peter Galbraith Kelly. The U.S. Attorney’s office didn’t immediately announce whether it would seek a retrial.

Deputy Senate Majority Leader John DeFrancisco, a GOP gubernatorial candidate, says Cuomo must explain to the public how Percoco was able to run a bribery and extortion scheme for years before he was convicted.

The Journal News: “It would be nice if Cuomo addressed the question on everyone’s mind: How one of his closest aides, perhaps his closest, could use his relationship with the governor to try to enrich himself by illegal means, without Cuomo knowing or suspecting.”

It’s not over yet. Another corruption trial – involving six defendants, including three developers involved in the Buffalo Billion program at the solar manufacturing plant at RiverBend – is due to start in June before U.S. District Court Judge Valerie Caproni, who presided over the Percoco trial.

Following the abrupt firing of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, President Donald Trump signaled he’s prepared to dismiss aides with whom he’s clashed – including national security adviser H.R. McMaster – as he works to surround himself with advisers more aligned with his populist agenda and freewheeling style.

Trump’s ouster of Tillerson is the most dramatic in a cascade of personnel moves that suggest the president is determined to surround himself with loyalists more willing to reflect his “America First” views.

Just over a year after the Sept. 11 attacks, the CIA dispatched the veteran clandestine officer Gina Haspel – Trump’s latest choice to run the agency – to oversee a secret prison in Thailand. Shortly after, agency contractors in the frantic hunt for the conspirators waterboarded a Qaeda suspect three times and subjected him to brutal interrogation techniques.

Trump wants the US to have its own “Space Force,” which would be like the Army and the Navy, “but for space,” he says.

The Democrat and Republican in a special House election in the heart of Pennsylvania’s Trump country were divided by a few hundred votes in a race that was too close to call early this morning — an ominous sign for Republicans in a district that the president won by nearly 20 percentage points.

The family of slain Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich filed a lawsuit against Fox News, one of the network’s reporters, and a wealthy Texas businessman over their roles in the publication of a baseless conspiracy theory about Rich’s 2016 death.

More >


President Trump ousted his secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, extending a shake-up of his administration, 14 months into his tumultuous presidency, and potentially transforming the nation’s economic and foreign policy.

Tillerson announced that his last day in the role will be March 31, but that he will transfer most of his duties to his deputy, John Sullivan, today.

Who will be the next member of the administration to go?

Trump’s longtime personal aide John McEntee was fired because he is under investigation by the Homeland Security Department for serious financial crimes unrelated to the president, and his security clearance was revoked.

Minutes after news of his departure broke, the Trump campaign announced McEntee would be joining the reelection effort as a senior adviser for campaign operations.

Two associates of Roger Stone, a longtime Republican strategist and informal adviser to Trump, said he was aware that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was in possession of a trove of hacked Democratic emails months before they became public.

The latest clue that actress and advocate Cynthia Nixon is indeed planning to challenge Gov. Andrew Cuomo in a primary: Her wife resigned from her job with the de Blasio administration.

The attorney for Cor executive Joseph Gerardi said he is unable to reconcile the mixed verdict rendered in the New York corruption case against a top Cuomo aide and two Syracuse businessmen.

The MTA is breaking the law by refusing to make its stations accessible to the disabled, the United States Attorney in Manhattan charges in a new lawsuit filed today.

A Florida prosecutor said that he would seek the death penalty against Nicholas Cruz, the man accused of killing 17 people last month at a high school in Parkland, moving the state closer to a rare trial for someone charged in a mass shooting.

NYC First Lady Chirlane McCray is considering a run for office after her husband, Mayor Bill de Blasio, is term limited out of office in 2021, she said — but she doesn’t agree with him that she ought to get paid at her current gig.

McCray also announced she’s heading to Puerto Rico as the city dispatches a team of 12 mental health professionals to assist people suffering after Hurricane Maria.

As students across the country prepare to walk out of school to protest the lack of gun control in the wake of the Parkland shooting, parents, teachers and administrators are trying to determine how young is too young to participate in events like these.

Rolling Stone magazine covered a new report from Physicians for Social Responsibility and Concerned Health Professionals of New York on the health risks of fracking.

With the yellow cab industry teetering on the brink of insolvency, New York City is poised to roll out what its top taxi regulator called a “tremendous opportunity”: surge pricing.

Regents Chancellor Betty Rosa was elected to another five-year term on the board this week, with Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie applauding the move to “ensure the board has the strong leadership necessary to continue the legacy of our state’s education system.”

Partnership for NYC President and CEO Kathryn Wylde penned a pro-congestion pricing OpEd for The Empire Page.

Hillary Clinton last weekend took broad swipes at Trump’s 2016 election victory, seemingly putting blame for her loss on poorer areas of the United States.

Former Alaska Governor and onetime GOP VP candidate Sarah Palin will keynote the Palm Beach County Republican Party’s annual Lincoln Day fundraising dinner on Friday at Mar-a-Lago, the party announced. (No word yet whether Trump will attend).

A U.S. citizen who joined al-Qaida and participated in a failed 2009 suicide bombing at an American military base in Afghanistan will spend 45 years in prison.

Flanagan Says He’s Open To ‘Additional Changes’ In Ethics Laws

Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan in a statement Tuesday said he would be willing to discuss “additional changes” to the state’s ethics and transparency laws after the guilty verdict in the corruption case of Joe Percoco, a former close aide to Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

“For as long as I have been in the state Legislature, I have always believed that more transparency and more disclosure are a good thing,” Flanagan said. “If we can make additional changes to our laws that will positively impact our state and its people, we are always willing to have those discussions.”

A number of changes, including a tracking of contracts through a database, as well as more oversight of spending by the state comptroller’s office, were proposed in the wake of Percoco’s 2016 arrest. None of the proposed measures have been approved.

Cuomo himself in a statement earlier in the day said he would be willing to back unspecified “safeguards” and use the trial as a learning experience.

Flanagan, like Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, called the guilty verdict unfortunate, but added it shouldn’t smear all of Albany.

“I have faith and trust in the criminal justice system, and similarly I have faith and trust that this jury took its responsibility to weigh the evidence in this case seriously and render a verdict that they deemed appropriate. As New Yorkers, we accept their verdict,” he said.

“On a personal level, it is unfortunate when anyone in government is found guilty of these kinds of charges. I strongly believe there are a lot of really good people in government – – people who choose public service for all the right reasons, people who are important to the operations of their state and their local communities.”

Cuomo Reacts To Percoco Verdict

Gov. Andrew Cuomo in a statement on Tuesday afternoon reacted to the corruption conviction of his former close aide Joe Percoco, calling the jury’s decision painful for him personally, but also for Percoco’s family.

“The jury has reached a verdict and I respect that decision. While I am sad for Joe Percoco’s young daughters who will have to deal with this pain, I echo the message of the verdict – there is no tolerance for any violation of the public trust,” Cuomo said.

“There is no higher calling than public service and integrity is paramount – principles that have guided my work during the last 40 years.”

This is the most extensive comment Cuomo has made on the case since the trial began earlier this year. He has refrained from publicly discussing the details of the case as well as the questions that have arisen from the testimony.

Cuomo added in the comment the case is something that must be learned from and made a call for “additional safeguards” but did not specify what should be done.

“The verdict demonstrated that these ideals have been violated by someone I knew for a long time. That is personally painful; however, we must learn from what happened and put additional safeguards in place to secure the public trust,” Cuomo said. “Anything less is unacceptable.”