Former Monroe County Chief Information Officer Will Give Up Government Pension, Will Be Barred From Public Employment In New York State, And Will Pay $25,000 Fine As Part Of Felony Plea

ROCHESTER – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman and Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli today announced the guilty plea of Nelson Rivera, the former Chief Information Officer for Monroe County, for working with others to rig the bidding process for multi-million dollar public works contracts in Monroe County. Rivera today entered a guilty plea before The Honorable Dennis M. Kehoe in Monroe County Court to two counts of the class “E” felony charge of Combination in Restraint of Trade and Competition in violation of General Business Law §§ 340 and 341, also known as New York State’s Donnelly Act. Based on what was stated on the record in today’s court proceedings, it is expected that Rivera will be sentenced to five years of probation, may never again serve as a New York public employee, must pay a $25,000 fine, and will give up his government pension.

Rivera was originally indicted in November 2013 along with Daniel Lynch and John Maggio, local businessmen, and Robert Wiesner, former Security Director of the Monroe County Water Authority. The men were charged in the indictment with a scheme to rig the bidding process for a number of multi-million dollar public works contracts in Monroe County. Those contracts included a $99 million contract to provide upgrades and maintenance for the county’s IT infrastructure, and a $212 million contract to provide upgrades and maintenance for the County’s public safety and security systems.

“Public employees have a legal and ethical responsibility to ensure that government contracts are awarded fairly and without special treatment,” saidAttorney General Schneiderman. “Today’s guilty plea represents an admission that the defendant broke the law and in doing so violated the public trust.”

“As our audits and investigation uncovered, Mr. Rivera was part of a scheme to rig bids on two multi-million dollar contracts,” said State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli. “The taxpayers of Monroe County deserve better. I thank Attorney General Schneiderman for working with my office to root out this fraud.”

Rivera today admitted that between March 2004 and approximately October 2013, and again between March 2008 and approximately October 2013, while acting in concert with others, he entered into, engaged in, and continued to engage in a contract, agreement, and combination thereof to restrain competition in the bidding process of Monroe County for the $99 million 2004 IT contract and for the $212 million 2009 public safety contract, by means of bid rigging.

Daniel Lynch, the remaining defendant, is scheduled to proceed to trial on February 23, 2016. The charges against the remaining defendant are allegations. All defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty in a court of law.

This case is the latest investigation conducted as part of Operation Integrity, a joint partnership between the New York State Attorney General and New York State Comptroller to root out waste and abuse in state government. To date, the initiative has resulted in dozens of convictions and more than $9 million in restitution to the state.

Assistant Attorneys General Mary Gorman and Brian McDonald of the Attorney General’s Public Integrity Bureau are prosecuting the case, with assistance from analysts Kamla Sookram, Morgan McCollum, and Joseph Conniff. The Public Integrity Bureau is led by Bureau Chief Daniel Cort and Deputy Bureau Chief Stacy Aronowitz. The investigation was handled by Investigators David Buske and Christopher Reidy of the Investigations Bureau, with support from Investigator Richard Doyle, Deputy Bureau Chief Antoine Karam, and Bureau Chief Dominick Zarrella. Executive Deputy Attorney General Kelly Donovan leads the Criminal Justice Division.

The investigation was conducted jointly with State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli’s Division of Investigations and Division of Local Government and School Accountability.


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Concerns of voter fatigue as New York schedules four 2016 Election Days | Gotham Gazette

Given how much it costs the state and municipalities to hold these elections, some have also argued that it would make financial sense to consolidate the number of days elections are held on. (This is at least part of the governor’s rationale for holding special elections on an already-scheduled election day (by law, the city must hold its special City Council election within a shorter time frame).)

“There is no reason the state primary can’t be held on the same day as the congressional primary,” the New York Times editorial board wrote, “thus eliminating the extra election and saving the state $50 million.”

“We do have a bill that we have passed almost every year in the Assembly to combine [the dates],” Assemblymember Michael Cusick said in response to calls from members of the New York State Board of Elections to consolidate the state and federal primaries during a Dec. 10, 2015, New York State Assembly hearing on enhancing the voter experience. “That is the goal of our committees, to get the primaries in one day, so we can save the state and municipalities money.”

Despite the benefits of merging election dates and support from the Assembly, combining the dates has not yet happened, perhaps because, as the New York Times editorial board suggests, “New York State lawmakers created this problem because it’s easier on the politicians, even though it’s costly and harder on the voters.”

The 2016 elections are for local, state, and federal posts, including district leaders, state Senators and Assembly members, members of Congress, and, of course, the president. Some races are special elections, such as those likely to be set for April 19, to fill four vacancies in the state Legislature, including the former seats of Silver and Skelos, who were both forced to leave office in December after being convictedon several counts of federal corruption.

Several special elections have already taken place in the past year to fill seats forfeited due to corruption convictions, spurring growing calls for ethics reform in Albany from good government groups andlawmakers alike.

In 2015, special elections were held to replace former State Assemblymember William Scarborough, who vacated his seat in May after he pleaded guilty to felony charges of wire fraud and theft; former Brooklyn State Senator John Sampson, who was convicted of obstruction of justice and lying to federal agents as part of a corruption investigation in July; and former Deputy Senate Majority Leader Thomas Libous, who was also convicted of lying to the FBI in July.

Governor Cuomo has said time and again he does not see any point in calling a special session to deal with ethics reform, though, as he has promised ethics reformwill be at the top of his 2016 agenda. And while consolidating voting days may be a step unlikely to be taken by the state Legislature, some reforms aimed at improving New York’s low voter turnout are currently being considered by state lawmakers.

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Glenwood Management drops six of seven lobbyists it had on its payroll last year | Times-Union

Exodus of pricey Glenwood Management lobbying firms

Glenwood drops six of seven lobbyists it had on its payroll last year

By Chris Bragg

Thursday, January 28, 2016


Glenwood Management, the Manhattan luxury real estate giant whch was a key player in the corruption cases against former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and ex-Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, is no longer using six of the seven high-priced firms it retained for lobbying in 2015, records show.

Glenwood’s squad of lobbyists, which were paid $900,000 in 2014, now includes only the New York City firm Pitta Bishop Del Giorno, which focuses on New York City issues for the company.

Six others are now "terminated," state lobbying records show.

Formerly the state’s biggest political donor, Glenwood in recent months has been cutting far fewer checks from its slew of limited liability companies.

Both its lobbying and campaign spending has given Glenwood outsized clout in the Legislature over issues such as rent regulation and tax breaks for developers — two items which were up for renewal in the 2015 legislative session, which ended in June.

One of the lobbyists no longer working for Glenwood is Brian Meara, who had been making $10,000 a month in its service.

Meara received a non-prosecution agreement from federal prosecutors in the successful case against Silver, and testified during the trial. Meara’s business partner, Mike Avella, surfaced in the Skelos trial. Another Glenwood lobbyist, Richard Runes (who was paid $10,000 a month), also testified in the Silver case.

None of the lobbyists were charged with wrongdoing.

Also no longer working for Glenwood are Mark Lieberman ($7,500 a month) and Francis Sanzillo ($15,000). These firms stopped work for Glenwood at the end of December when their contracts expired, according to records.

Albany-based State & Broadway ($7,000 a month) stopped working for Glenwood in June, as did Empire Strategic Planning, the firm of ex-state Sen. Nick Spano ($12,000), though its original contract ran though December.

A Glenwood representative could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Silver and Skelos were convicted late last year on corruption charges brought by U.S. Attorney for the Southern District Preet Bharara.

Glenwood Senior Vice President Charles Dorego was given a non-prosecution agreement by Bharara in exchange for his assistance in the case against Skelos. Prosecutors also named 101-year-old Glenwood principal Leonard Litwin a co-conspirator during a sidebar conference in the Skelos trial, according to The New York Times.

Neither Glenwood nor any of its employees have been charged.

In both the Silver and Skelos cases, the lawmakers were convicted of concocting schemes in which the developer would enrich them, or their families, in exchange for favorable treatment on one or several of the key issues Glenwood has before the Legislature.

A number of the lobbyists terminated by Glenwood continue to work for a publishing company with seemingly unrelated legislative issues, New York City-based American Lawyer Media.

In 2014, all six high-priced lobbying firms on ALM’s payroll also worked for Glenwood. The connection between the two is not entirely clear, although an ALM spokeswoman last year told the Times Union the company had no business relationship with Glenwood.

Runes’ LinkedIn profile says he is "VP and Counsel for External Affairs" at ALM.


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State ethics board passes rule requiring disclosure for press contact | Crain’s New York Business

The board in charge of cleaning up Albany extended its claws into newsrooms Tuesday, requiring public-relations consultants to report as lobbyists if they try to influence editorial writers.

The redefinition of lobbying to include contact between journalists and consultants, reported byCrain’s this month and since amended to apply only to editorials, passed the Joint Commission on Public Ethics by a 10-3 vote.

Public-relations firms and free-speech advocates roundly condemned the proposal, saying it infringes on unfettered communication between citizens and the press. Consulting group The November Team released a statement Tuesday, declaring it would "refuse to comply" with the guideline, which was then approved despite intense opposition from the communications industry.

Andrew Celli, whose law firm wrote a letter opposing the change on behalf of four New York public-relations companies, said the commission "failed even to address the core issues" he and others raised.

"Newspaper editorials are part of the firmament of public discussion," Celli said. "The idea that that is going to be overseen by an administrative body in Albany is deeply concerning."

JCOPE wrote in its Jan. 19 update of its proposal that the change is "in no way intended to restrict a reporter’s ability to gather information or to seek comment from representatives of advocacy groups as part of reporting the news."

"Rather, this is intended to generate transparency in the activities of paid media consultants who are hired to proactively advance their client’s interests through the media," the committee wrote in a footnote.

The decision will likely be challenged in court.


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Bharara Coming To Albany

Bharara Coming To Albany

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara is heading to Albany next month to meet with the New York Conference of Mayors.

Bharara will attend NYCOM’s winter legislative meeting, scheduled for Feb. 8, at the Hilton Albany, less than a mile down the hill from the state Capitol.

Gannett’s Albany bureau first reported the news of Bharara’s planned visit.


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In Albany, Ethics Committees Rarely Meet, Offer Less | New York Times

“Like other committees in the Legislature, the ethics panels have chairmen and several members each. Unlike the others, they have not considered a single bill on the subject of ethics — or anything else — that anyone can remember.

“It is a body bent on self-protection,” said Susan Lerner, executive director of Common Cause New York, a government watchdog group, referring to the Legislature. “And so you have two different committees in two different houses bent on self-protection.”


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NY Times Uncovers Mayor de Blasio ‘Pay to Play’ Scandal

Lawyer, lobbyist and political fixer, Harold Ickes, gave the re-election campaign committee of his pal, Mayor Bill de Blasio $19,250 in bundled contributions after his client A.E.G. Live won city permission to hold a music festival on Randall’s Island, the NY Times reported.

Suri Kasirer, a lobbyist for Madison Square Garden, delivered about $56,000 in contributions, and James Capalino, who represents Founders, delivered $29,690. MSG and Founders were also competitors in bids to land lucrative contracts to hold concerts in city parks.

Ickes and de Blasio were colleagues in the administration of President Bill Clinton.


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NY State Senate Majority Introduces Bill Capping Terms of Legislative Leaders

Albany, NY — A term limit bill has been the Senate Republican-backed answer when asked what the conference will propose to reform the Legislature’s ethics. Both former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and ex-Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos were convicted on corruption charges late last year.

Before his ouster from the top post in the Assembly following his arrest, Silver was the second-longest serving speaker.

The term limit measure would cap the Senate and Assembly leaders, plus the minority leaders to eight-year terms. Committee chairs would be capped to eight years.

The measure would set in law rules the Senate has had in place for the last several years.

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Dean Skelos could get pension of more than 95G a year – NY Daily News

Disgraced ex-Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos has filed for retirement and stands to receive a pension of up to $95,590 a year — even though he’s likely headed to jail.

Skelos, who was convicted earlier this month on federal corruption charges, filed his retirement papers on Dec. 22, state Controller Thomas DiNapoli’s Office revealed Tuesday.

DiNapoli’s office would not reveal how much Skelos will receive but the Empire Center for Public Policy estimated he’d receive an annual pension of as much as $95,590.

Read the rest here >>


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Tandem convictions of house leaders make NY history | Newsday

Newsday’s Dan Janison writes:

"…But corruption charges have long been routine in state capitals, and Albany’s “crime waves” come and go.

Twenty-five years ago this week, the political topic of fascination was the pending federal indictment of then-Assembly Speaker Mel Miller, a Brooklyn Democrat (who was later convicted but saw the case voided on appeal).

In the five-year period to that point in December 1990, 10 state lawmakers were criminally charged. As was widely noted then, more lawmakers were indicted during this period than lost their seats in a general election.

Some changes followed. New laws restricted the timing of legislators leaving office to become lobbyists. Other laws have been tightened, bringing somewhat improved disclosure requirements — the flouting of which helped jam up Silver.

The feds seem more aggressive and surveillance technology has improved. Last year one corruption case featured evidence of Queens GOP vice chairman Vince Tabone ineffectively searching an undercover agent for a body mike. The subsequent conversation was recorded nonetheless.

“Right now we are in dangerous times, Adam,” the elder Skelos presciently lectured his son in a phone call taped by the FBI. Adam Skelos’ use of a so-called burner phone didn’t prevent damning statements from being recorded.

The most sweeping legislative reform proposals appear elusive. An alteration in the guaranteed-pension rights in the state constitution, to bar the convicted from collecting, can be expected to occur, oh, some time around the end of days on earth. A full-time legislature that shuns outside income? Unlikely.

Most unflattering for both deposed leaders is that their absence may already matter very little. No big shifts have surfaced in Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s dealings so far with Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx) and Majority Leader John Flanagan (R-East Northport), who both took the helm last session.

So political observers are now focused on whether a Republican or Democrat succeeds Skelos. Silver has vacated a Democratic-controlled seat in an overwhelmingly Democratic Assembly. Only in the more competitive Senate might the shift of one seat affect the balance of power — which could actually affect broader choices in government."


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