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GOP leader in complaint alleges Percoco, Cuomo broke ethics laws

Ed Cox, chairman of the New York Republican

Ed Cox, chairman of the New York Republican State Committee, in Cleveland, Ohio, on Monday, July 18, 2016. Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams Jr.

ALBANY — The head of the state Republican Party has filed a complaint alleging that Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and his former closest aide, Joseph Percoco, broke laws meant to prevent government offices from being used to run political campaigns.

Ed Cox cited evidence presented at Percoco’s ongoing corruption trial showing the former aide using the executive chamber’s Manhattan offices more than 60 times from May 2014 to December 2014 when he was running the governor’s re-election campaign and was not on the state payroll. Cuomo’s public schedule says he too was in the Manhattan office on more than 50 of those same days; Cox cited stories about the issue in Newsday and The New York Times.

Cox noted that New York’s public officer’s law prohibits the use of government resources to run political campaigns. He said it raises legal issues apart from the corruption trial, which centers on bid rigging.

“The use of the governor’s physical offices during that politically crucial period by Mr. Percoco allowed the Cuomo for Governor Campaign to utilize and conveniently access key governmental decision makers and the governor himself for political strategy and decision,” Cox wrote in a letter Wednesday to the state Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE). “Additionally, it appears that state property and resources were used for political purposes during this period. This actions are in violation of Public Officers Law Sections 73 and 74.”

A Cuomo campaign spokesperson didn’t directly address the allegations, but alleged that Cox worked as an unregistered lobbyist for an oil company several years ago. Cox, previously addressing the issue, has said he didn’t lobby for the company.

Percoco is on trial with three other defendants (who were Cuomo campaign contributors), accused of rigging lucrative public construction contracts in exchange for bribes. The defendants all have pleaded not guilty and have said the payments to Percoco were perfectly legal while he was working as a private consultant. Cuomo has not been accused of wrongdoing.

Two high-ranking Cuomo officials have testified they saw Percoco in his old government office while working on the campaign. One of those, Seth Agata, is now the executive director of JCOPE.

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