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Contractor sues state, says Cuomo campaign donor chosen

ALBANY -- A Buffalo contractor who claims the Cuomo administration took away a $20 million contract to give it to a bigger contributor to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s political campaign is suing the state and seeking an investigation by a federal prosecutor.

The state said the contractor was removed because it failed to do the job as required.

Dreamco Development Corp. in two civil cases accuses the Cuomo administration’s Empire State Development Corp. of unfairly taking them off the job of building an elaborate ice skating rink called Canalside in Buffalo. The project, now complete, was delayed several times over two years.

The CEO, Rosanne DiPizio, claims the delays were the result of incompetence by state officials and the weather, in an issue first reported by The Buffalo News.

“I also believe that the company was made to be a scapegoat so that the state agency could hire a firm that played by Albany’s unspoken rules involving campaign kickbacks,” DiPizio announced Monday.

The state claims Dreamco took on a project it couldn’t handle, at a low bid price that wasn’t realistic, then failed to perform as required. The state also claims the company wanted to dispose of contaminated soil at a less expensive site than required by the state.

“This contractor was removed for delays and questionable practices, and it was a private bonding company not Empire State Development, that selected a replacement,” stated Jason Conwall, spokesman for the Empire State Development Corp. “The ice rink has since been completed and has helped make Canalside an engine in Buffalo’s ongoing economic revitalization. We do not comment on pending litigation, but believe the state’s actions will be upheld in court.”

The state knocked Dreamco off the job in May 2013. It was replaced in a decision by the independent bonding agency on the project -- not the state -- which chose The Pike Co. of Rochester. About two months after the Buffalo News said the contract was awarded, Pike’s CEO, Thomas Judson, contributed $10,000 to Cuomo’s campaign, according to state Board of Elections records. Another $10,000 would be donated less than a year later by Rufus Judson, who is an executive at the company. The only other contribution to Cuomo’s campaign was in September 2010, when Thomas Judson contributed $5,000.

The Pike company didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Dreamco also contributed to Cuomo’s campaign. The company contributed $1,500 in two checks and DiPizio contributed $2,000 before the original bid was awarded in November 2011, according to state Board of Elections records.

DiPizio says her family’s 37-year-old business is threatened by the state’s action which, in addition to the lost revenue from the contract, makes it difficult to secure bonding needed for new big projects.

DiPizio called it a “classic David versus Goliath scenario” in a letter to U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara in Manhattan.

Contractors in Western New York said Bharara’s office has issued subpoenas to companies involved in Cuomo’s “Buffalo Billion” construction and jobs project in which major contributors to Cuomo’s campaign won big contracts, although the Canalside rink isn’t part of that development ( Bharara’s office declined to comment Monday.

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