ALBANY -- Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Friday he knew nothing about alleged corruption in his top economic-development projects across upstate, and he instead condemned the actions and enacted reforms.
Cuomo immediately stripped SUNY Polytechnic Institute of its management of projects in Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse and Utica.
He said the state would also install new procurement regulations aimed at stopping the type of bid-rigging alleged in state and federal criminal charges made against 10 developers and public officials.
"The central plank of my administration has always been about public integrity and zero tolerance for any waste, fraud or abuse," Cuomo said during a speech in Buffalo.
In the speech and then in a follow up with reporters, the Democratic governor said he was hurt by the alleged actions of people close to him.
"I had no idea about anything that was contained in that complaint," Cuomo told reporters.
In particular, his former top aide and close friend Joseph Percoco was charged with four federal counts of extortion and bribery.
Percoco is accused of accepting $315,000 in bribes from companies with business before the state in exchange for taking various actions, including freeing up state funding for Syracuse-area developer COR Development and pursuing a lucrative power-purchasing agreement for Maryland-based Competitive Power Ventures.
SUNY Poly President Alain Kaloyeros, along with lobbyist and former Cuomo aide Todd Howe, are accused of rigging the bids for lucrative contracts so Cuomo campaign donors, including COR, would win. Howe pleaded guilty to accepting bribes from the companies.
Percoco and Kaloyeros have maintained their innocence.
U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said Thursday there are no allegations of "any wrongdoing or misconduct" by Cuomo.
The governor mentioned his late father and governor, Mario, had considered Percoco as part of the family.
"It’s the first time since we lost my father that I didn’t miss him being here yesterday because it would have broken his heart," Cuomo said.
Cuomo's actions come amid criticism that the charges Thursday reflected a lack of tough ethics oversight at the Capitol.
Last year, the two former legislative leaders, Dean Skelos and Sheldon Silver, were convicted on corruption charges by Bharara, who again said Thursday that Albany hasn't cleaned itself up.
Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, who ran unsuccessfully against Cuomo in 2014, charged that the public wouldn't believe Cuomo's claims that he didn't know what Percoco and the others were allegedly up to.
"This is like Casablanca: ‘I’m shocked, shocked that there’s gambling going on here,'" said Astorino, who is considering another run for governor in 2018.
"I don’t think anyone is buying it anymore more with this act. Everything is reactive, and I don’t think anyone believes he doesn’t know anything about this stuff."
Asked if the case would impact his re-election in 2018, Cuomo said he didn't think it would.
He said the scandal wouldn't distract from his administration's work.
"I want you to know personally that these charges against these nine individuals will have absolutely nothing to do with the energy and the progress and the momentum of western New York’s revitalization under the Buffalo Billion project," Cuomo told the crowd.