'Revoke CPV permits,' says Neuhaus after corruption conviction

| 15 Mar 2018 | 02:05

— Orange County Executive Steve Neuhaus said Tuesday that New York State should revoke all permits granted to the Competitive Power Ventures (CPV) power plant in Waywayanda, after Joseph Percoco, a longtime aide to Gov. Cuomo, was convicted of three felony charges in connection with accepting more than $300,000 in payments from companies with business in the state.
“You cannot act illegally in the permit approval process and then keep the permits," said Neuhaus. "When the arrests happened, I called upon the state to review all of the permits that were issued. Now that a conviction has been handed down, State officials must do more. They should introduce and pass legislation creating a presumption of invalidity for any project in which criminal conduct by public officials occurred and for which permits were issued.”
A jury in Manhattan had been deliberating for more than a week in the case, announcing a second deadlock this week. The jurors wrote in a note Monday that they'd struck out after considering “the facts and the evidence with open minds." They had also said last week that they were divided with no hope of a consensus in the six-week trial of Percoco and three businessmen. After instructions from the judge, they worked into the afternoon and resumed on Tuesday.
Prosecutors said most of the money in bribes came from CPV in the form of a “low-show job” for Percoco’s wife, Lisa Toscano-Percoco. A CPV executive agreed to pay her $90,000 a year to teach schoolchildren about energy.
Percoco pled guilty to two crimes connected to CPV, conspiracy to commit honest services fraud and soliciting bribes.
“The legislation should be retroactive to the CPV applications," said Neuhaus in a statment. "Permits must be based on honest conduct and a jury has now found that this project was tainted by dishonesty. People can disagree over many issues related to development. However, criminal conduct must mandate a higher standard of review.”
Local residents have for months been picketing in front of the CPV plant, saying that its burning of diesel fuels is making them sick and the air in their communities noxious.
Percoco was found guilty of two counts of conspiracy to commit honest services wire fraud and one count of solicitation of gratuities in U.S. District Court in Manhattan. He was accused of accepting $315,000 in payments from CPV and Cor Development, businesses that requested Percoco, a former top aide to the Governor, to take state actions that benefited their various projects.
A unflattering pictureThe trial has painted an unflattering picture of the state capital, highlighting it as a place where deep-pocketed developers use campaign donations to gain influence and rules meant to regulate lobbying are flouted.
Among the revelations: Cuomo administration officials avoided public information laws by using private email addresses to conduct state business; a lobbyist close to the administration evaded disclosure rules by never registering with the state; Percoco continued to work out of a state office even after he was supposed to have left government to lead Cuomo's 2014 re-election campaign.
Blair Horner, director of the New York Public Interest Research Group, said the case has exposed a lack of safeguards in Cuomo's administration when it comes to state contracting oversight. Too much power rests in the hands of just a few trusted aides, he said.
“It's all about money and power with this governor, and New Yorkers are now seeing that ugly truth revealed, drop by drop," said Sen. John DeFrancisco, who is running for the Republican nomination for governor.
“My administration has probably been subjected to more investigation than any state administration," said Cuomo. "After all that they have two people who are now on trial for wrongdoing," referring to Percoco and Alain Kaloyeros, the former president of SUNY Polytechnic Institute who faces charges he steered state business contracts to companies whose executives had given to Cuomo's campaigns.
Kaloyeros' trial is set to begin this spring.
There's also little reason to believe lawmakers will tighten ethics rules or campaign finance limits in response to the Percoco case. More than 30 state lawmakers have left office facing allegations of misconduct since 2000, yet there's been little response from Albany officials, despite calls to strengthen state ethics rules.
“Virtually nothing has been done to address rampant corruption,'' said Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb. “With corruption trials and arrests piling up, it is unfathomable that we have yet to fix this problem."