If you watched the Emmy’s back in September you may well recall that the “Game of Thrones,” a fantasy drama television series won the Outstanding Drama Series award. Why limit the idea of awards to just television? In Albany, over the past year or so, we witnessed an equal share of drama associated with the performance of our public officials’ that in many instances was illegal, harmful, contrary to law, and a violation of public trust. Nominations are being accepted. The category “Outstanding Political Malfeasance.”
No better place to start than by considering a comment made by our governor to reporters when asked about the lack of meaningful ethics reform in the closing days of the legislative session. Not biting, he shifted gears to yet another topic citing the actions of a former state pension manager working for Comptroller DiNapoli as “probably the greatest scandal in the state this year.” That individual was accused of taking bribes to improperly steer $2 billion in investments to Wall Street broker-dealers. A possible winner.
- Dr. Alain Kaloyeros, leader of the SUNY Polytechnic Institute, and Joe Percoco, former aid to the governor, both indicted in a wide-ranging “Buffalo Billions” corruption scandal.
- Both State Sen. Malcolm Smith and City Councilman Dan Halloran in a scheme to use cash to secure the senators placement on a NYC ballot for Mayor.
- Zero accountability in the required assessment of millions spent to create jobs’ under the governor’s Economic Development program, and
- The receipt of stipends by lawmakers for committee chair positions they did not hold.
Including the governor’s nomination, five in total. My choice “Zero Accountability.” What has occurred over many years portrays a fundamental violation of fiduciary responsibility, and a serious violation of public trust. Grab on to the following scenario.
Background: The Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC) serves as the State’s chief economic development agency allocating hundreds of millions of dollars in grants, loans to private companies, and non-profit organizations throughout New York State to stimulate job creation, and encourage business investment. Spending reached $1.3 billion in 2014 to achieve these goals; outstanding debt $10.7 billion all orchestrated without voter approval.
Least you feel you are being fleeced, read on. A report issued by the agency itself showed the Start-Up NY program created only 408 jobs since it was launched in 2013, with $53 million spent on TV and radio advertising alone. An audit issued shows 2,424 jobs created of which 258 were on Long Island. Even more egregious, numerous audits show the agency cannot verify “that the companies receiving millions of dollars in tax credits are meeting their obligations.”
Howard Zemsky, ESD president, pushed back on these findings stating the criticism evident were “prompted by emotion and anger, not facts.” E.J. McMahon, president of the Empire Center on Public Policy stated “economic development tactics present a grand strategy, surrounded by excessive expectations, created by promotional hype.” So much for managing other people’s money, while ensuring public trust. A clear winner.