ALBANY — Federal investigators on Friday issued a subpoena to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s office seeking records and documents related to a criminal probe of one of the governor’s signature economic-development projects, a source said.
The subpoena was issued to the “executive chamber,” the term for the governor’s office, the source said. No individual employees of the governor were named in the subpoena, the source said.
U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara is seeking “records and documents” related to the “Buffalo Billion” projects. He had previously subpoenaed Cuomo’s economic development agency and State University of New York Polytechnic Institute, the high-tech research center that has a major role in the Buffalo Billion projects.
The probe now appears to have widened, as investigators also are looking for records involving a power plant proposed in the Hudson Valley by Maryland-based Competitive Power Ventures.
The Cuomo administration has ordered staff to cut off all communication with lobbyist Todd Howe — who previously worked for Cuomo when he was federal housing secretary and, earlier, for the governor’s father, the late Mario Cuomo — and to suspend any regulatory dealings with CPV, a source with knowledge of the probe said.
Howe is president of WOH Solutions, a Washington-based subsidiary of Whiteman Osterman & Hanna, the largest legal firm in New York’s Capital Region.
The investigation also reportedly is looking at Joseph Percoco, Cuomo’s longtime confidante and political enforcer who left his job as the governor’s executive deputy secretary in January. His lawyer, Barry Bohrer, issued a statement late Friday defending Percoco’s time in government, saying: “Mr. Percoco was a dedicated and effective public servant, who is proud of the service that he rendered to the people of the state of New York.”
The governor’s administration issued a statement that said unnamed “individuals” may have “deceived” and “defrauded” the state regarding the Buffalo Billion. Cuomo’s counsel, Alphonso David, issued the statement Friday, saying Bharara’s investigation has “raised questions of improper lobbying and undisclosed conflicts of interest “by individuals who “may have deceived state employees.”
The statement came six weeks after an internal Cuomo administration memo was made public disclosing the probe was “criminal in nature.” The memo said that the Empire State Development Corp., the state’s economic development arm, had received a subpoena that “requests documents relating to projects and activities” related to the Buffalo Billion.
Newsday and other outlets have reported that questions centered on the awarding of a state contract — to LPCiminelli Inc., a major Cuomo campaign donor — to build a $900 million solar panel factory in Buffalo.
The Cuomo administration asserted Friday that it would act pre-emptively to root out any guilty individuals, announcing its own investigation. The governor’s office said it had hired Bart Schwartz — formerly head of the U.S. attorney’s criminal division in Manhattan — to head the effort.
In a statement, Schwartz said: “The state has reason to believe that in certain programs and regulatory approvals, they may have been defrauded by improper bidding and failures to disclose potential conflicts of interest by lobbyists and former state employees. The U.S. Attorney’s office has an ongoing investigation that has revealed important information in this regard.”
SUNY Polytechnic has handled some of the “requests for proposals” for the Buffalo development projects. After one bid specification for the solar projects seemed to disqualify all contractors except LPCiminelli, Polytechnic chief executive Alain Kaloyeros told Buffalo media outlets that it was a typographical error and issued new criteria.