Perdido 03

Perdido 03

Monday, May 2, 2016

Cuomo Must Answer Why Corrupt Former Aide Was Still Working For Him

Erica Orden wrote in the Wall Street Journal on April 21 that Governor Cuomo's former aide, Joe Percoco, was pretty much still working for the governor even though he had officially stepped down from his government job and was supposed to be working a new gig in the private sector.

Percoco was still attending Cuomo's government functions, still wearing his official badge, still seemingly managing some of Cuomo's affairs even though he was working for Madison Square Garden, not the governor.

With Percoco now in the sights of federal prosecutors over corruption, Orden reports that Percoco was not only still attending Cuomo's government functions badged up like he was still a government employee, he was also pushing Cuomo's political agenda behind the scenes as late as last month during the budget negotiations:

In recent months, while working in the private sector as a top executive at Madison Square Garden Co., Joseph Percoco, a former senior staff member for Gov. Andrew Cuomo, has continued to aid the governor at public events.

He hasn’t stopped there.

Behind the scenes, Mr. Percoco has also advocated on behalf of the Democratic governor before the state legislature and has directed government events while presenting himself as a current member of the executive chamber, according to people familiar with the matter.

Those actions provoke concerns among some ethics watchdogs about his competing public- and private-sector interests, particularly with regard to matters in which Madison Square Garden has a stake.

According to people involved in the process, Mr. Percoco, who began his job as a senior vice president at Madison Square Garden in early January, privately operated in late March on behalf of Mr. Cuomo during budget negotiations.

The revelation of Mr. Percoco’s role in budget talks comes as he is under federal investigation for possible conflicts of interest involving payments from companies with business before the state during his time working for the governor, according to people familiar with the matter. In response, Mr. Percoco’s lawyer has called him a “dedicated and effective public servant.”

Governor Cuomo has been hiding since news surfaced that his former aide - described by Cuomo as like a brother to him - has been revealed to be under federal investigation for corruption.

Cuomo must be called to account for why it is Percoco was still doing the governor's bidding as late as Marchduring the budget negotiations - especially because Percoco's new bosses at MSG had business before the state.

Here's Orden again:

Since shifting to the private sector, Mr. Percoco has been active in other ways behind the scenes for Mr. Cuomo and his administration. In January, he directed top elected officials gathered backstage for Mr. Cuomo’s State of the State address on their roles in the program, according to people who were present.

Mr. Percoco was the only person in the room not on the state payroll, these people said. The Wall Street Journal previously reported that he attended the speech sporting government staff credentials.
His appearance backstage caused a stir. Some huddled there were confused about whether Mr. Percoco had begun his new job and, if so, why he appeared to be directing state officials on Mr. Cuomo’s behalf. The address took place Jan. 13; according to the state Comptroller’s records, Mr. Percoco went off the state payroll on Jan. 4, the same day he started employment at Madison Square Garden.

His new employer, meanwhile, had an interest in the substance of the event Mr. Percoco was helping to facilitate. Besides issues such as taxation and the minimum wage, the address contained proposals explicitly linked to the company, most prominently the overhaul of Penn Station.

Mr. Cuomo’s plan for the station included the possibility of demolishing a theater on Eighth Avenue owned by Madison Square Garden.

A few days earlier, on Jan. 6, Mr. Cuomo had frustrated many advocates of a Penn Station renovation when he announced bids would be sought for the revamp but laid out few details, though he did say that any plan that called for moving the Garden was a non-starter. That is an outcome Madison Square Garden Co. had long sought.

Mr. Kelly, the Cuomo spokesman, said the decision to keep the Garden put was simply the most practical and that moving it would have required “an astronomical sum of money.”

Mr. Percoco had also worked at that event—which took place at the Garden—on behalf of Madison Square Garden. Thus, within the span of a week, Mr. Percoco apparently operated at two different government events concerning a topic of interest to Madison Square Garden, once representing his current employer and once representing his former.

Man, if that doesn't have at the very least an appearance of conflict of interest and double dealing, I dunno what does.

When Orden first wrote up the Percoco story on April 21, one of Cuomo's flying attack monkeys responded that it was absurd for the WSJ to allege that Percoco and Cuomo were doing anything wrong by having the former aide still involved with Cuomo's official work.

With Percoco under federal investigation for corruption and with Percoco's role with Cuomo clearly a complex one, there is nothing absurd about asking questions about these matters.

What was Percoco doing still pushing the governor's agenda even though he was officially working for MSG?

Why was Percoco badged up like a state employee when he was no longer working for the governor?

What conversations, if any, did Percoco and the governor have about MSG and Penn Station after it became clear Percoco would be working for the Garden?

Finally, why won't Cuomo answer these questions instead of having his attack monkeys go into assault mode when questioned by the press?

I won't hold my breath that Cuomo answers any of my questions, but you can bet Preet Bharara and the federal investigators looking into Percoco are not unaware of the work Percoco has been doing for the governor since he officially starting working for MSG and will be asking questions as well.

And of course Bharara has subpoena power, so those questions tend to get answered one way or another.

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