State Controller Thomas DiNapoli recently signed off on a $643,000 payment to Morvillo, Abramowitz, Grand Iason &Annello P.C., the law firm representing the governor in a federal corruption probe. Cuomo has a $950,000 contract with the firm.
The probe involves U.S. Attorney General's Preet Bharara's investigation into the number of the Governor's upstate economic development initiatives. Nine of the Governor's associates, including his personal friend Joseph Percoco have already been arrested. Governor Cuomo is set to be called as a witness during the trial.
According to Politico NY, the overall price tag for the State in terms of litigation costs is approaching $5 million.
The probe, that was initiated in the first half of last year, involves a number of the Governor's upstate development projects. Broadly speaking, the Governor has invested billions of dollars in State funding, giving it to local developers with the hope generating job growth. Members of his administration have been charged with misappropriating the funds, favoring certain developers that paid them illegal bribes in order to secure funding.
Two prime suspects in the investigation, Joseph Percoco and Todd R. Howe, purportedly took bribes according to the complaint being levied against them. It is alleged that the businesses that bribed them received "hundreds of millions of dollars in state contracts and other official state benefits."
There is no evidence of direct wrongdoing on behalf of the governor. However, Percoco and Howe are two of Cuomo's closest confidantes and political allies. A probe into any illicit activity does not bode well for Governor's image, considering that this is not the first time that Preet Bharara has put top officials of the Cuomo administration under scrutiny. In 2015, Bharara successfully prosecuted former Senate majority leader Dean Skelos and former Assembly speaker, Sheldon Silver on charges of corruption. Skelos was sentenced to 5 years in prison, while Silver was sentenced to 12 years.
In August of 2016, Howe reportedly struck a "cooperation deal" with U.S. attorney Preet Bharara. The deal would provide Howe with "leniency" in the event that he would be criminally charged.
Cuomo has referred to the probe as "disturbing", and has denied having any involvement in the scandal, stating that he does not know many of the name of the developers listed in the complaint. He has also expressed his upset over the involvement of Joseph Percoco in the plot, whom he has often referred to as "his father's third son."
“The (criminal) complaint spelled out a very disturbing and reprehensible story of possible misdeeds by these nine individuals." said Cuomo, "The central plank of my administration has always been about public integrity and zero tolerance for any waste, fraud or abuse. If anything, I hold a friend to a higher standard and the allegations are truly, truly disappointing."
By: Kristina Stukalenko