Pointed Questions for Governor Cuomo About His New Ethics and Contracting Reform Proposal


At 3pm today, Governor Cuomo unexpectedly released a Statement On Proposed Ethics Reforms. We are still mulling over what he wrote, but we are struck by how cynical it was for the governor to begin his statement with a long attack on CUNY and an attempt to create a false equivalence between CUNY’s problems and the $800m bid rigging scandal centered around SUNY Polytechnic, SUNY Research Foundation, and state controlled non-profits controlled by his administration. As measured by public dollars at risk, the SUNY Poly / Cuomo administration scandal is hundreds of  times larger than anything CUNY was doing.

We have serious questions about what the governor is proposing. In particular, two of his proposals relate to Clean Contracting goals that we have been advocating for.

Re: His pledge to not accept campaign contributions from companies involved in an RFP or for six months after winning an award:

  1. Why use such a weak and narrow definition of “doing business”? NYC defines “doing business” as —  include engaging in, applying for, or holding any of the following: contracts, franchises, concessions, lobbying, grants, pension fund investment contracts, economic development agreements, real property agreements, and land use actions.
  2. How does this stop the practice of “tithing,” in which a business makes a contribution after winning a state contract? What is the difference between waiting a month or 7 months to tithe?
  3. Why not restrict/ban contributions from any business with a live contract or MOU or seeking to do business by responding to RFI, RFQ, or RFP?
  4. What about people seeking to do business via MOU — which is common with Empire State Development Corporation deals? Does this apply?
  5. What about people seeking / doing business with SUNY RF, SUNY Polytechnic, or a state controlled non-profit
  6. What about people seeking /doing business with a State Authority?
  7. What about people seeking /doing business with a State-funded Public Private Partnership?

Re: Chief Procurement Officer:

  1. Why create a Chief Procurement Officer within the executive branch — which is not independent of the executive — instead of empowering an independent oversight body, which we already have under the state constitution and is called the Comptroller? It is very hard for people and agencies to investigate and oversee themselves.
  2. The Governor has repeatedly cited delays as a major reason for taking away the Comptroller’s power to review SUNY contracts. Why will the new Chief Procurement Officer not delay things for agencies?
  3. Will the CPO have to approve Authority contracts? SUNY? SUNY Polytechnic? SUNY Research Foundation? Why and why not? The contracts at the center of the SUNY Polytechnic bid-rigging scandal were between state controlled non-profits “Fort Schuyler Management Corporation and real estate developers. Would such contracts be reviewed by the new CPO? What about contracts between AIM Photonics Institute and vendors? AIM Photonics is a P3 that is 2/3rds funded by NYS to the tune of $200m.