Plan coming for SUNY Poly non-profits

ALBANY - A plan to revamp a pair of scandal-scarred non-profits at the center of a wide-ranging bid-rigging scandal will be unveiled by the end of the month, the state's top economic-development official said Thursday.

Howard Zemsky, president and CEO of Empire State Development, said the state authority is finishing ways to transform the Fort Schuyler and Fuller Road Management Corps., the SUNY Polytechnic Institute-controlled entities that oversaw contracting for many of Gov. Andrew Cuomo's major upstate economic-development projects.

Cuomo stripped the SUNY Poly non-profits of their construction portfolio last month after the college's president Alain Kaloyeros, ex-Cuomo aide Joseph Percoco, lobbyist Todd Howe and a handful of executives from major upstate development companies were charged with felonies. Kaloyeros and Howe were accused of steering lucrative state-funded contracts to Cuomo campaign donors and Howe clients.

Speaking to Empire State Development's board Thursday, Zemsky said the state will roll out changes "over the next 10 days".

"We are actively engaged in reviewing a go-forward plan for these entities," Zemsky said. "How will we organize them? Changes that we'll make to the bylaws, to the governance, to board members, additions of board members, the legal structures themselves."

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara and state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman filed separate criminal complaints last month, accusing Kaloyeros and Howe of tailoring the bidding process for major SUNY Poly projects -- including a $750 million solar-panel factory in Buffalo -- to ensure contracts went to Howe's clients.

Howe, who was also being paid by SUNY Poly, has pleaded guilty and is cooperating with Bharara's office.

The contracts at the center of the case were awarded by Fort Schuyler and Fuller Road, the non-profits set up to own and manage SUNY Poly's massive real-estate portfolio, including the multi-billion-dollar nanocenter at the college's Albany campus.

By steering the contracting through the non-profits, SUNY Poly wasn't required to follow the same types of procurement guidelines state agencies are required to follow.

Bharara's complaint accused Kaloyeros -- who has maintained his innocence -- of co-opting and controlling the process, with Fort Schuyler and Fuller Road board members unaware the bids had been rigged.

Zemsky said the plan for the future of SUNY Poly's economic-development projects is aimed at rebuilding trust with the public.

The college's non-profits were overseeing the construction of major facilities in Albany, Utica, Buffalo and beyond, and had been expected to play a significant role in a Rochester photonics institute awarded last year.

"We're going to do it in a way that moves projects forward but in a way that greatly expands the accountability, the transparency of the entity and the access of the public to information," Zemsky said. "And I think we can find the right balance between getting projects done and doing so in a way that everyone feels that is not in any way opaque or mysterious."


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