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With more corruption trials looming, groups tell NY lawmakers to OK contract oversight bills

ALBANY -- Even with more corruption trials looming, Democrats are blocking proposals that would reform oversight of lucrative state contracts, an array of good-government and education groups said Thursday.

The activists called on the Democrat-led Assembly to approve bills that would create a public database of contracts and subsidies received by private companies, and another that would restore contract oversight by the state comptroller’s office.

Using a sports analogy, the groups said the bills amounted to using a referee and slow-motion instant replay to apply tighter regulations to protect taxpayers.

“These would ensure that everyone is treated fairly when” state funds are doled out, “including taxpayers’,” said John Kaehny of the watchdog group Reinvent Albany.

The need for tighter regulation is highlighted, they said, by two corruption trials that start later this month. One focuses on former Senate leader Dean Skelos and the other on massive development projects channeled through the state university system and the Cuomo administration’s economic development entities.

Earlier this year, Joseph Percoco, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s former top advisor and campaign manager, was convicted in a separate bribery scheme that involved state contracts and permits. Also, former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver was convicted of taking $4 million in kickbacks disguised as legal fees.

They activists Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx) should allow a vote on the oversight measures before the legislative session ends June 20. The Republican-led Senate already approved them.

But they also are calling out Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, a Democrat. They note both the Assembly and the Senate backed the measures earlier this year when lawmakers were negotiating the state budget in March. Cuomo opposed and the measures were dropped.

“Frankly, it’s the governor knocking this off the table,” said Ron Deutsch, head of the labor-backed Fiscal Policy Institute.

Neither the Cuomo administration nor Heastie immediately commented Thursday.

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