Whole Foods Developer Sues Errigo

From the Morning Memo:

Problems just keep piling up for outgoing Republican Assemblyman Joe Errigo.

Already facing charges for accepting a bribe, the developers of the project he’s accused of trying to hinder in exchange for that illicit cash are now suing him as well. Daniele Family Companies, which is building a Whole Food complex in Brighton, filed the federal lawsuit this week.

The suit also goes after a former Monroe County government staffer and nine other people for their alleged roles in trying to stop the development from happening. That staffer, Joe Rittler, is accused of coordinating the bribe in exchange for a bogus bill at the state legislative level, to at least slow the project.

Rochester lobbyist Robert Scott Gaddy was also arrested in connection with the scheme. According to court documents, the FBI was aware of the scheme and never let the legislation move beyond the preliminary stages.

However, the developer is seeking more than $650,000 in lost business damages.

Attorneys for the developer, Errigo and Rittler did not respond to Spectrum News Rochester’s request for comment.

Errigo was ousted in the September Republican primary for the 133rd Assembly District by Marjorie Byrnes, who went on to win the general election in November, defeating Democrat Democrat Barbara Baer.

(Errigo ran on the Independence and Reform Party lines in the general election, despite the federal bribery charges, and came in a distant third).

Pay for Play Accusations in Rochester-Area Assembly Race

The campaign for Republican Assemblyman Joe Errigo is calling into question a $20,000 payment his primary opponent made to Jason McGuire, the chairman of the Livingston County Conservative Party and a regional vice chair for the state Conservative Party.

According to campaign finance reports and confirmed by McGuire, GOP candidate Marjorie Byrnes contracted him to do consulting work for her campaign. He said he did not begin working for Byrnes, a former Rochester City Judge, until roughly a month after his county party endorsed her.

However, he was already Byrnes’ campaign manager when he wrote an email supporting her to the state party’s executive committee. McGuire released the July 12 correspondence on Tuesday in which he disclosed he was assuming the responsibilities.

The committee ultimately decided to authorize Byrne as its candidate for the 133rd Assembly District, but some members did not realize McGuire was receiving compensation and felt misled. State Party Chairman Mike Long said in the aftermath he asked for the regional vice chair’s resignation.

McGuire complied in an ensuing email to Long and committee members on July 23rd, in which he also announced he would return the $20,000. He said he didn’t mean to mislead anybody.

“I have every intention of continuing to support her as I have all along and still believe her to be the better candidate for this office, but I would rather do it as an unpaid campaign volunteer with integrity intact, than live under a cloud of suspicion before you with compensation,” McGuire said.

Long said he took the right steps and after reviewing the facts decided the incident was the result of a “clear misunderstanding.” He chose not to accept McGuire’s resignation.

The actions were not enough for Errigo’s campaign though, who said it “smacks of Albany pay-for-play.”

“This is the worst of what New York state politics is all about and it should not happen,” campaign spokesperson Arnie Rothschild said. “The fact that Mr. McGuire now says he has returned the money is an indication he recognizes this was wrong. However, if you rob a bank and return the money two days later, you’re still guilty of robbing a bank.”

Rothschild questioned why McGuire did not recuse himself from the state committee’s conversation about the race. He also said $20,000 is an unusually large amount to pay for an Assembly race and, to his knowledge, McGuire has not served as a campaign consultant before this year.

The Livingston County chair said he has in fact been involved in numerous campaigns although he typically works for free. The Errigo Campaign said it is reviewing the incident with attorneys and has not filed any formal complaints, although they believe it is potentially a felony.

The state Conservative Party is continuing to support Byrnes, although Long said it is not an indictment of the incumbent. He said Errigo has done a good job filling the seat left vacant when Assemblyman Bill Nojay committed suicide, however the party intended him to be a stabilizing candidate, not a long-term one.

Byrne also has the endorsement of the Livingston County Republican Committee while the Monroe County GOP is supporting Errigo.

Pelosi To Speak At Slaughter’s Funeral

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi will be among the speakers Friday at the funeral for longtime Congresswoman Louise Slaughter. A delegation of her colleagues will also be traveling to Rochester for the 11 a.m. service.

Pelosi was one of many members of Congress to release statements about Slaughter following her death late last week. The Democratic leader said they were friends for 30 years.

“Her loss will be deeply felt,” Pelosi tweeted Friday, “May it be a comfort to her family to know that so many around the country mourn with them.”

Civil rights icon and congressional colleague John Lewis will also speak at the service. Lewis and Slaughter entered the House at the same time in 1987.

He visited the congresswoman’s district in 2016 for a campaign event. Months later when Lewis chose not to attend the presidential inauguration for Donald Trump, Slaughter stood with him.

“For decades, Congresswoman Slaughter fought for those who were left out and left behind, and she gave voice, hope, and comfort for those who felt alone, lost, and abandoned,” he said. “I vividly remember her work to break the cycle of violence against women and to stop discrimination based on race, income, religion, ability, region, gender identity, or genetic information.”

The funeral service and Slaughter’s calling hours, which begin today and continue tomorrow, are open to the public. Her family and staff thanked the community for the outpouring of support.

“It is a source of comfort knowing how many people admired Louise and were impacted by her life’s work. The service will be a fitting celebration of a truly remarkable person. We’re pleased that the public is invited to join us as we mark the life and legacy of this trailblazing leader,” her chief of staff, Liam Fitzsimmons, said.

The funeral is being held at the Eastman Theatre in downtown Rochester and will be televised.

Rochester Train Station Will Be Named After Slaughter

Amtrak will name Rochester’s new train station after late Congresswoman Louise Slaughter, who died last week at the age of 88. Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand made the announcement this morning.

The two Democrats along with the governor began pushing for the move shortly after Slaughter passed away. They say the name is fitting because she was responsible for securing the federal funding to make the station a reality.

“Louise fought for years fighting to secure over $15 million in federal funding, so it was only logical and necessary for Amtrak to rename the train station after Louise, a legend in her own right and a fierce advocate for her constituents,” Schumer said.

The grand opening for the station was in October 2017. Schumer and Gillibrand said Amtrak will work with the state and city government on details about the naming effort, commemorative plaque and necessary funding.

“Louise was one of the most effective members of Congress I’ve ever worked with, and bringing this station to Rochester was one of her proudest accomplishments. Now, whenever anyone rides the train across New York, Louise Slaughter and Rochester will be inseparable,” Gillibrand said. “That’s a fitting, meaningful tribute to one of the great public servants of our time, and I was very proud to support the effort to change.”

Amtrak said the Rochester station is one of the busiest stops in the state, serving more than 127,000 passengers annually. It will be the second hub named after a member of Congress.

“Slaughter was a larger than life figure who worked tirelessly to secure federal funding and make this project a reality. I am proud that this shining beacon of Rochester’s revitalization will bear the name of a leader who was integral to making it happen – Congresswoman Louise Slaughter,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo, D-NY, said.


Apple RFP Process More Traditional Than Amazon

From the Morning Memo:

As Amazon considers its top 20 proposals for its second North American headquarters without any upstate regions in the running, the next giant on the economic development horizon is Apple.

The tech company announced earlier this week it is searching for a home for its new corporate campus as part of its plan to bring an estimated $245 billion dollars of business back to the United States.

While there are a lot of similarities in the Amazon and Apple projects, economic development officials in upstate say you’re likely to hear much less about Apple’s search moving forward.

“We’re constantly talking but one of the things we do and I really respect that with what GRE (Greater Rochester Enterprise) has done is we don’t often publicize our submissions. Amazon was different. Amazon when they came out, they made their HQ2 very public,” Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Bob Duffy said.

The main difference will be in the Request For Proposals, or RFP, process. What made Amazon’s search so unusual is that the company encouraged any community that fell within its specifications to submit a proposal.

Invest Buffalo Niagara President and CEO Tom Kucharski said it won’t work that way for Apple. Instead the company will take a more traditional approach.

“In most cases you’re sent an RFP which means that the company or their consultants have said, yeah, you know you’re on the list, and then it’s your responsibility as a community to try to stay on the list. So it’s not a process of inclusion. It’s a process of exclusion,” Kucharski said.

Invest Buffalo Niagara said it hasn’t received that request yet from Apple or its consultants, but Kucharski said the region does have a good relationship and has already been in touch with the company to see if needs match resources.

“Apple is a recent announcement,” he said. “We’ve worked with the company for years. We have an NDA (non-disclosure agreement) with them. I can only talk a little bit about that.”

Buffalo and Rochester submitted a joint bid to Amazon, and economic development officials indicated they plan to work together more in the future. It’s not clear whether that would be the case with Apple, however.

“There is nothing that we don’t go after when we hear about it and a lot of things that we don’t hear about, we find out through some back channels,” Duffy said.

Kucharski said even though the process is different, quite a bit of the research and ideas they gathered for the Amazon bid would be applicable to Apple too.

University of Rochester President Resigns

From the Morning Memo:

University of Rochester President Joel Seligman has announced his resignation effective Feb. 28.  The news came just hours after former U.S. Attorney Mary Jo White released the findings of her independent investigation into alleged sexual harassment at the college by Prof. Florian Jaeger.

White’s report cast a cloud of unethical judgement on Jaeger’s sexual relationships with students and staff, but found nothing illegal.

In a statement, the school said Seligman submitted his resignation yesterday morning, prior to White’s findings being made public.

“It is clear to me that the best interests of the University are best served with new leadership, and a fresh perspective to focus on healing our campus and moving us forward in a spirit of cooperation and unity,” Seligman wrote in a letter to staff.

Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce President and former Lieutenant Governor Bob Duffy applauded the president’s “courageous” decision, saying he put the community and the university first. He said no university leader has done more for the community.

“He has broken down walls and created outreach opportunities from education to economic development, impacting almost every area of the fabric of life in the City of Rochester,” Duffy said. “Joel has been a friend and a colleague for many years.”

“President Seligman has had a profound effect on our local and regional economy as the leader of our largest employer and formerly as co-chair of the Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council. I wish him and the U of R the best as they move forward.”

Rep. Louise Slaughter also praised Seligman for his leadership, but went on to say she has serious concerns about White’s report. She said college officials need to take better steps to protect students.

“We must eliminate the scourge of sexual assault and harassment from all corners of our society,” Slaughter said. “It was an outrage that this professor was allowed to take advantage of the uneven power that exists between faculty and students. This is the same dynamic that universities and workplaces are grappling with across the nation.”

The school said an interim president will be chosen prior to Seligman’s departure. Jaeger’s accusers said the report hasn’t provided them any justice or relief, and they plan to purse additional legal action.

128 Guns Collected At Rochester Buy-Back

From the Morning Memo:

The state attorney general’s office is touting this week’s gun buy-back in Rochester as a success.

The office co-sponsored the event with the Rochester Police Department. According to an AG spokesperson, 128 firearms were collected – including three assault weapons, 60 handguns, and 29 rifles. Seventeen of the guns turned in were not working.

The AG’s office said it has now collected more than 1,500 guns across the state since the buyback program launched in 2013.

“With gun buy back events, we have the potential to take unwanted guns out of circulation as we continue our fight to make our communities safer,” Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said. “I’m proud of our partnership with the Rochester Police Department as we combat gun violence.”

The program is funded through forfeitures seized from gun and drug traffickers. People who turn in guns – no questions asked – receive gift cards in return.

Gun buybacks continue to be popular both at the state level and with local law enforcement, even though many experts have questioned their effectiveness.

“I truly believe there’s not one answer to solving crime, but if we hit it from every different direction, that’s when we make progress,” Sgt. Steven Ward of RPD said.

The Rochester event came as a two-year-old boy, Zayden Phillips, remains in Strong Memorial Hospital, shot in the head in his home late last week. Prosecutors said the boys father engaged in reckless behavior that threatened Phillips’ life.

Reverend Deloris Smith of the Clergy Response Team said it should be a wake-up call to the community, and encourage members of the public to take advantage of buyback programs.

“If the gun wasn’t in the home, that baby would have never gotten shot,” she said.

In Rochester, Warren Wins Second Democratic Primary

From the Morning Memo:

Early unofficial numbers indicated incumbent Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren held more than 60 percent of the vote in last night’s Democratic primary.

Warren’s challengers, former Police Chief James Sheppard and former TV news reporter Rachel Barnhart, stood at 21 and 15 percent, respectively.

During her victory speech, which came relatively early in the evening, the mayor said the win is a sign of better things to come.

“I want a party that is strong and successful and I am committed to working to make that happen,” Warren said. “I am convinced with our overwhelming victory tonight, the majority of Rochester Democrats are ready to move forward, and we must do this together.”

Sheppard holds two minor party lines, but said the primary was basically the end of the road for him.

“I don’t think it’s a matter of just going through the process to be going through the process,” he said. “I entered this race, I entered this campaign to win and I entered this campaign to win in the primary.”

“I do appreciate the support I’ve received from the Independence Party and the Working Families Party, but I also think it’s important to know when to let go and move on.”

Barnhart said she recognized going into the primary that it would be a struggle to compete against opponents with more money, but she was pleased to have run what she called a “legitimate” campaign.

“It was very clear to me going into the final weekend that a lot of voters were incredibly undecided and resistant to change,” Barnhart said. “A three-way race is very hard. I was the underfunded candidate, I was always the candidate who was going to have an uphill battle. And I think we proved that we were a legitimate candidacy.”

Televised Rochester Mayoral Debate Will Happen

In a story that’s continued to develop over the last several days, the city of Rochester will have a televised mayoral debate after all. Democratic incumbent Lovely Warren’s campaign confirmed late Thursday morning she would attend a debate hosted by WROC-TV and the League of Women Voters on September 7.

That production was originally scheduled for last week, but Warren had to pull out because of a “significant allergic reaction” that put her in the hospital for nearly a week. She also said she would not be able to participate in a second televised debate that was scheduled for Monday.

Her Democratic primary opponents, Rachel Barnhart and James Sheppard, both accused the mayor of sidestepping her civic responsibility. Warren maintained in a statement earlier this week, she was focusing on her health and caring for her daughter, but would continue to honor her commitment to participate in a Chamber of Commerce forum on September 7.  Spectrum News planned to help moderate that event.

The mayor also invited the chamber to modify its format to allow rebuttals and encouraged local media to work together to televise it. With it clear no other debate would come together, Barnhart also called on the chamber to turn their forum into a more traditional televised debate.

Chamber President Bob Duffy, in a statement Thursday, noted the forum was specifically meant to discuss issues important to its members and the questions were determined by a previously distributed survey. Given the unforeseen circumstances, he offered to cede the chamber’s time if candidates wanted to participate in another event.

“As a non-partisan organization, Rochester Chamber never intended our Mayoral Candidates Employer Forum to serve as a single-party debate,” Duffy said.

Warren’s campaign said contrary to “widespread reports,” she never said she wouldn’t participate in a televised debate and was grateful the matter was resolved.

“Friends of Lovely Warren has been talking to WROC since Monday about possibly partnering with the chamber and we are grateful now that chamber event has been rescheduled that News 8 and The League of Women Voters will be able to move ahead with their previously canceled debate,” the campaign wrote.
Sheppard, however, said the debate is happening because of the pressure the community put on the mayor. He thanked Duffy for his stance, which he said helped force Warren’s decision.

The former Rochester Police chief also addressed Barnhart’s criticism of him for refusing to participate in a debate without Warren.

“Despite criticism from some quarters, I have been firm in my resolve to keep the Mayor’s feet to the fire and hold out for a three-person debate that includes all of the Democratic Primary candidates. These have occurred for every single mayoral race since the first election in 1985. When an incumbent is in the race, it makes no sense to have a “debate” without them present,” Sheppard said. “To suggest that we ought to proceed without Lovely Warren in holding a debate designed to determine whether she has earned the right to be re-elected is, frankly, ridiculous.”

Barnhart, on Twitter, also thanked Duffy and the Rochester Chamber of Commerce, saying they deserve all the credit. The debate is scheduled for next Thursday from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.

Rochester Mayor Hospitalized After ‘Significant Allergic Reaction’

Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren, D, was admitted to the hospital Tuesday due to a “significant allergic reaction” according to her staff. City Communications Director James Smith said Warren is receiving treatment at Strong Memorial Hospital and is expected to make a full recovery.

Smith said the mayor is in good spirits. He said because Warren has a large extended family, she has requested no other visitors at this time.

“Everyone at City Hall wishes the Mayor well and looks forward to her return to work,” Smith said. “I would ask the media to please respect the Mayor and her family’s privacy while she recovers.”

On top of her mayoral duties, Warren is currently in the midst of a contentious three-way Democratic primary campaign.