ALBANY, N.Y. — Corruption charges against eight men — including a former top aide to Gov. Andrew Cuomo — brought Albany corruption back into the headlines this week and delivered a significant political blow to Cuomo’s efforts to revitalize the upstate economy. Meanwhile, two upstate airports received some good news and Attorney General Eric Schneiderman warned of potential loopholes when it comes to fighting prescription drug abuse.
A guide to the week’s top stories in New York government:
The arrests of eight men Thursday — including two former advisers to Cuomo — in a federal corruption case rattled the Democrat’s administration and threatened to undermine confidence in Cuomo’s proudest economic development initiatives.
Among those ensnared: Joe Percoco, an aide so close to Cuomo and his family that the governor likened him to a brother, as well as SUNY Polytechnic Institute President Alain Kaloyeros, who led many of Cuomo’s efforts to attract high-tech jobs.
Federal authorities accuse Percoco of soliciting bribes from companies hoping to secure hundreds of millions in state contracts. Kaloyeros is alleged to have manipulating the bidding process to ensure certain companies won lucrative state contracts. Executives at Buffalo contractor LPCiminelli and Syracuse-based COR Development are also charged, as is an executive at Competitive Power Ventures, an energy company.
A ninth man, lobbyist and former Cuomo adviser Todd Howe, has already pleaded guilty to federal charges and is cooperating with prosecutors.
Cuomo said that if true, the allegations are saddening and disappointing.
“There are allegations that nine people did the wrong thing,” Cuomo told reporters on Friday. “If the allegations turn out correct, justice will be done and they will pay the price.”
SCHNEIDERMAN WARNS OF OPIOID ‘LOOPHOLES’
Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is urging Cuomo to veto two bills that he says would weaken laws combatting prescription drug abuse.
One measure would exempt nursing home doctors from rules requiring electronic filing of prescriptions. The other would alter existing regulations for controlled substances to allow doctors, in certain cases, to not report the prescriptions directly to state health officials.
The legislation was intended to remove potential barriers for health care providers, but Schneiderman, a Democrat, warned Cuomo in a letter that they could create “significant loopholes.”
Cuomo hasn’t weighed in.
FOSTER CARE INVESTIGATION
A special grand jury is investigating New York state’s foster care system following the arrest of a Long Island man accused on sex abuse charges.
Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota said the probe involves a review of “multiple agencies.”
Cesar Gonzales-Mugaburu was arrested last winter on charges he victimized seven children in his home. He has pleaded not guilty.
Authorities say he provided foster care for dozens of boys over two decades.
HELP FOR UPSTATE AIRPORTS
Airports in Rochester and the Southern Tier will each get $40 million as the first two winners of a state-sponsored competition.
Both the Greater Rochester International Airport and the Elmira-Corning Regional Airport plan to use the money to modernize and improve their facilities.
Airports around upstate are competing for a total of $200 million in funding. Cuomo launched the contest earlier this year. Three more winners are expected to be announced in the coming weeks.
DORM OF THE FUTURE
The state announced the completion of $35 million in upgrades to SUNY residence halls, just in time for the start of fall classes.
In most cases,, the work involves new paint, remodeled bathrooms or new boilers. But dorms at the University at Buffalo received something perhaps more innovative: a system allowing students to check on their laundry and reserve a washing machine using their smartphone.
The work was funded with residence hall fees.