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Foss: Convictions should be disqualifying for Cuomo

Foss: Convictions should be disqualifying for Cuomo

Foss: Convictions should be disqualifying for Cuomo
Joseph Percoco, right, with Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York in Albany on Feb. 27, 2013.
Photographer: NATHANIEL BROOKS/THE NEW YORK TIMES

Forget whether Gov. Andrew Cuomo should run for president in 2020. 

The real question is whether he should be running for governor in 2018. 

Given the extent of corruption exposed by the just-concluded Buffalo Billion trial, the answer is no. 

Four defendants, including Alain Kaloyeros, former president and CEO of Albany's SUNY Polytechnic Institute, were found guilty of conspiring to rig bids for hundreds of millions of dollars in state contracts for economic development projects in Buffalo and Syracuse. 

No, the governor wasn't on trial. 

But his administration, which spearheaded the Buffalo Billion project, was. 

This bold, and costly, effort was Cuomo's signature economic development initiative, an ambitious plan for revitalizing upstate New York by dumping obscene amounts of money into it. 

Let's be clear: The Buffalo Billion project was never a good idea. 

The weak return on investment never justified the cost, and taxpayers wound up footing the bill for dubious projects, such as the $14 million Syracuse-area film hub of which the governor himself proclaimed, "Who would have ever figured: Hollywood comes to Onondaga, right? You would have never guessed." 

No, you would never have guessed, because it was a ridiculous notion -- something even a child might have found fantastical. 

The promised jobs never materialized, and in June the facility was sold to Onondaga County for $1. 

You don't have to be a financial wiz to realize that this was a bad investment. 

It was also, we now know, part of a shockingly corrupt way of doing business, and that stench will be hard to wash away.

Last week Joe Gerardi and Steven Aiello, of COR Development, the Fayetteville company that built the film hub, were found guilty of working with Kaloyeros to rig bids so that COR would win jobs in the Syracuse area. 

In Buffalo, the jury found developer Louis P. Ciminelli guilty of working with Kaloyeros to rig the bidding process for the $750 million RiverBend solar manufacturing plant so that Ciminelli's company was hired to build it. 

Cuomo promised to clean up state government when he was elected governor. 

But he has not followed through on that promise. 

If anything, the Capitol seems dirtier than ever. 

We can continue to issue earnest pleas urging the governor to live up to his promise to transform New York's corrupt and dysfunctional political culture, or we can acknowledge that Cuomo is not the person for the job. 

The governor certainly doesn't seem eager to accept responsibility for his administration's wrongdoing. 

"I don't know what I could have done differently at the time," he said. "I don't know what I could have done differently to prevent the situation."

Are we really supposed to believe New York's control-freak governor knew nothing about the bid-rigging and pay-to-play schemes going on right under his nose? Or that he couldn't do anything about it? 

I know I don't believe it. 

In March, a jury convicted former Cuomo aide Joseph Percoco of accepting bribes from some of the governor's campaign contributors. 

The Percoco and Buffalo Billion corruption convictions ought to disqualify Cuomo from serving as New York's governor. 

They haven't, and they probably won't. 

But they should. 

And they should certainly put the kibosh on any Cuomo 2020 talk. 

Reach Sara Foss at [email protected]. Opinions expressed here are her own and not necessarily the newspaper's. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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