U.S. Attorney Bharara Teaches the State a Civics Lesson

Percoco Commentary

Ross Sandler

The stunning 79-page federal complaint and arrest of Joseph Percoco and seven others by United States Attorney Preet Bharara focused on bribery and extortion, but the complaint also revealed a callous disregard of State conflicts of interest and procurement rules. These allegations were as serious as the federal criminal charges. Among the violations described were:

Business dealings: An energy company seeking contracts with the State-owned power authority and regulatory relief from State agencies hired Joseph Percoco’s wife at Percoco’s request. The energy company hid the conflicts violation by paying Percoco’s wife through a pass-through employer and by using her maiden name. (Pars. 43-44)

Annual financial disclosure statement: Joseph Percoco in his annual filing with the Joint Commission of Public Ethics (JCOPE) falsely reported his wife’s earnings as coming from the pass-through employer rather than the true source. (Par. 45)

Gifts: Percoco accepted unlawful gifts of a fishing trip (cost $2,748) and expensive dinners (cost $279) from the energy company seeking State contracts and regulatory favors.

Ethics opinion: Joseph Percoco obtained a formal ethics opinion concerning his private business when he left State government by falsely claiming that he would only do work with local municipalities, when he knew he would be working on State issues with State agencies.

No contact rule: Percoco, although barred from all contacts with State entities after he left State government, repeatedly represented private interests before the Executive Chamber and State agencies.

Procurement law: Alain Kaloyeros and five others conspired to tailor eligibility requirements for large construction contracts so that only bribe-paying firms would be selected. One of the tailored requirements was that bidders to qualify must have “over 50 years of proven experience.” Another that bidders had to have an unusually high participation by women and minority owned businesses.

Percoco and the others demonstrated a complete disrespect for the rules of honest government. The disrespect was general and not just from those indicted. How about the people who observed their unlawful actions – agency officials contacted in violation of the rules and opposing bidders who easily discerned favoritism in the RFPs – they knew and went along. U.S. Attorney Bharara has given the State a civics lesson. It is time for the legislature to act.

Ross Sandler

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