NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s “Buffalo Billion” project is now at the center of a corruption probe.
CBS2’s Tony Aiello reported that Cuomo sees the project as a key part of his legacy.
Supporters said it will create jobs and transform the economy in upstate and western New York. However, critics said the state is spending billions of dollars with little oversight and now the U.S. Attorney is taking a close look.
The project is funding a solar panel plant and other facilities for high-tech firms in and around Buffalo.
Much of it is the vision of Dr. Alain Kaloyeros, the president of SUNY-Polytehnic and the highest-paid state employee.
“Who sees things that mere mortals don’t see, and has economic visions that other mere mortals can’t actually see?” Kaloyeros said.
The U.S. Attorney subpoenaed Kaloyeros and the “Buffalo Billion” project to probe possible corruption with these big projects.
“The corruption risk is sky high. There’s so many red flags for corruption here,” John Kaehny of the watchdog group Reinvent Albany said.
Kaehny said he sees big issues with the project. Cuomo allowed Kaloyeros to use not-for-profits to accept and then spend state money on the projects.
“They have very, very little oversight and it’s an opportunity to do essentially whatever you want to with state tax dollars,” Kaehny said.
Kaehny said the same players keep landing fat contracts to work on “Buffalo Billion” projects. Firms such as Cor Development and Cha Consulting have donated generously to the governor and also paid fees to Cuomo associates Joe Percoco and Todd Howe.
“All the smoke that is around this is about learning whether there is a fire that is basically bribery and corruption,” Kaehny said.
As federal authorities probe the project, Kaloyeros has resigned from the not-for-profits controlling the projects.
SUNY-Polytechnic said Kaloyeros’ resignation from those boards was unrelated to the investigation, and insists there are multiple layers of oversight to make sure “Buffalo Billion” money is properly spent.
Cuomo has put his own respected watchdog in place to make sure tax dollars are being spent appropriately.
Cuomo promises full cooperation in the probe, but believes any wrongdoing is isolated to one or two “bad apples,” and is not widespread.