Leanne Politi

Producer: Capital Tonight, In Focus Albany Leanne.Politi@charter.com

Posts by Leanne Politi

Former Cuomo Top Aide, Eight Others Facing Federal Charges (Updated)

____pictureA former top aide to Governor Andrew Cuomo is facing federal corruption and bribery charges in connection with two companies that were trying to do business with the state.

In a federal complaint released this morning, US Attorney Preet Bharara announced that Joe Percoco and eight others are facing a wide array of criminal charges. Percoco, who served as the governor’s executive secretary, is accused of taking more than $600,000 in bribes from an energy company that needed state approval to build a power plant in the Hudson Valley and an upstate developer that received several state contracts.

In addition, Percoco is accused of getting a job at the energy company for his wife, a former school teacher.
Percoco spent decades as one of the closest friends and aides to the governor, who referred to Percoco as the late Mario Cuomo’s third son.

Time Warner Cable News has reached out to both Percoco and Governor Cuomo for comment.

State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is also bringing charges against Alain Kaloyeros and Columbia Development head Joseph Niccola. Charges against Kaloyeros will focus on bid rigging.

Bharara will announce the charges at noon, Schneiderman will hold his news conference at 2:30. Tune in to Time Warner Cable News for complete coverage.

UPDATE: Here’s the complaint from the U.S. attorney against Percoco (AKA “Herb”), Kaloyeros (AKA “Dr. K”), Buffalo developer Louis Ciminelli and and five others.

And here’s the complaint against former lobbyist Todd Howe, who has also been a central figure in Bharara’s Buffalo Billion investigation.

Also, Percoco’s attorney issued a statement, saying his client will not plead guilty and calling the case an “overreach.” He also says the prosecution is based on information provided by someone who is “of utterly unreliable credibility” – does he mean Howe?

Zucker Blames EPA Over Delayed Response to Water Contamination

Via Bobby Cuza:

State health officials do not seem especially eager to field questions about the ongoing water contamination crisis in Hoosick Falls and other upstate towns.

State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker was in Manhattan this morning, deputized by Governor Cuomo to announce a new, $1.5 billion investment in New York’s health care system, going toward 162 different projects statewide. The dollars will help fund infrastructure improvements with a goal, in the long run, of improving health outcomes for New Yorkers and reducing hospital admissions and emergency-room visits in the process.

However, the roughly 14-minute announcement – which also featured remarks by Kenneth Raske, President of the Greater New York Hospital Association, and Rick Cook, COO of the Healthcare Association of New York State – came to a somewhat abrupt close without any attempt to entertain questions from the press.

Afterwards, as Zucker left through a side door, he was pursued by reporters and stopped to comment, briefly.

Asked by the Wall Street Journal’s Mike Vilensky if anyone should be fired over the Hoosick Falls crisis, Zucker said, “Not at all.”

“We’re moving forward. We’re doing everything we need to do on this issue. We have bio-monitoring of people. We have looked at wells, we have sampled the wells. We have been out there tackling all different issues. We put filters on. There’s a crop and filter system that’s been put in, it’s being flushed as we speak today. And we’re moving forward.”

As to criticism these remediation measures should have been done sooner, he said, “All this stuff is moving forward. Remember, this was an unregulated substance before. And the EPA kept changing their numbers on us.”

That comment was a reference to the fact that perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA – the hazardous chemical in question – was not on the Environmental Protection Agency’s list of regulated chemicals when the issue first came to the state’s attention. And that the EPA at one point lowered its guidance for acceptable PFOA levels from 400 parts per trillion to 100 parts per trillion.

The comments also echoed those made by Zucker and other state officials at a news conference in Hoosick Falls last Friday.

Cuomo Cancels Mets Tickets Fundraiser

Governor Andrew Cuomo’s campaign has put its Mets fundraiser on hold. The administration was offering tickets to attend the first two World Series games at Citi Field this weekend. The price of one ticket? $5,500.

“Given the overwhelming demand for tickets for Friday and Saturday night’s games, we have decided to reschedule this weekend’s events to a future date so that more tickets are available. We will all be cheering on the Amazins this weekend as they make history and bring down the Royals. Let’s Go Mets!‎” said a Cuomo spokesperson

The cancellation comes after good government groups criticized the fundraiser.

“There is a question frankly of abuse of his office. Has the Governor traded on his official position to get a benefit which he then is using for his personal campaign’s gain? That would be illegal.” said Susan Lerner of Common Cause

According to the Cuomo spokesperson, about 20 tickets per game held by the campaign have been returned to the Mets. The governor used campaign money to pay for his trip to Kansas City Tuesday night for game one of the World Series.

SOTS Reaction: Andrea Stewart-Cousins

Governor Cuomo’s State of the State and Executive Budget proposals did not get much attention Thursday in the wake of the Sheldon Silver arrest. But the governor’s 2015 Opportunity Agenda did introduce a lot of new proposals that need discussing. Senate Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart Cousins joined us to discuss Cuomo’s proposals and did weigh in on the charges against Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.

Watch Here >>

Advocates: Invest Full $5B Into Infrastructure

Governor Cuomo’s 2015-2016 Executive Budget includes some funding for infrastructure projects, including a plan to prevent Thruway toll hikes. But it’s much less than advocates were hoping to see. They’d call for investing the full $5 billion in bank settlements on upgrading the state’s roads, bridges, and public transit systems. Mike Elmendorf, the president of the Associated General Contractors, joined us to explain.

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Proposed Reform For Indigent Legal Services

New York state counties pay millions of dollars every year for legal counsel, which is an obvious burden. So Thursday afternoon, Albany County leaders and lawmakers announced proposed legislation to take that burden off of the counties. Albany County Executive Dan McCoy, Assemblywoman Pat Fahy, and former trial court Judge Larry Rosen joined us to talk more about the reform proposal.

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SOTS Reaction: Assemblyman Keith Wright

Governor Cuomo’s 2015 State of the State included a seven-part criminal justice reform plan that would fund body cameras and better bullet proof vests for police officers while also trying to recruit more minority officers. Cuomo admitted that it’s still a work in progress, and said he’s open to further discussions. But he has already won the support of my next guest on this issue. Assemblyman Keith Wright joined us to talk more about this proposal and more from the speech.

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SOTS Reaction: NYS School Boards Association

We finally got the details of Governor Cuomo’s education agenda during his State of the State and executive budget. And it includes an increase in the charter school cap plus changes to the teacher tenure system. If the legislature passes those, Cuomo says he’s willing to increase education funding by more than one billion dollars. Head of the state School Boards Association, Tim Kremer, joined us to discuss.

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SOTS Reaction: Working Families Party

It is a tradition for the opposing party to give an official response to the governor’s State of the State, and officials from minor parties also weigh in through interviews and statements. This year, the Working Families Party put together an official video response for the first time. WFP leaders Bill Lipton and Karen Scharff joined us to explain why and share their thoughts on the governor’s speech.

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Siena Poll Numbers On Cuomo, Education, Criminal Justice

Governor Cuomo’s favorability rating is the highest its been since his office was accused of interfering with the Moreland Commission’s anti-corruption investigation. Tuesday’s Siena poll shows that 60-percent of voters say they currently have a favorable view of him, while 35-percent say unfavorable. And as he prepares for the first big policy speech of his second term, voters want to see him focus on education and jobs. Siena pollster Steve Greenberg joined us to go over all the numbers.

Watch Here >>