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In Depth: SUNY Poly legal bills

March 01, 2017 06:31 PM

As we await a trial date in the corruption case of former SUNY Poly President Alain Kaloyeros and seven others, NewsChannel 13 has been asking questions to find out how much money you have spent on this investigation.

The Newschannel 13 Waste Watchers team has uncovered documents showing the state approved spending nearly $3 million of your tax dollars.

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The arrests were made last September, but the state started spending your money on this case more a year before anyone was charged.

The NewsChannel 13 Waste Watchers team found three contracts.

The first, approved nearly two years ago, gave SUNY permission to spend $1.5 million to hire a law firm. The other two gave the governor's office permission to spend $950,000 on a law firm and $450,000 on an investigator. That’s a grand total of $2.9 million.

"I’m puzzled by the allocation of taxpayer dollars by the governor's office to investigate the government," admitted Blair Horner with the New York Public Interest Research Group or NYPIRG.

Horner can't figure out why the state would spend any money on an investigator when they already have one on the payroll.

"The state has an inspector general in fact, whose job is to look for misappropriation of funds, malfeasance, unethical behavior within the executive branch and the government itself," Horner pointed out.

NewsChannel 13 asked the inspector general if they looked into this case. They refused to comment.

The governor's office says it's standard practice to hire outside counsel. They said as soon as there was any question of wrongdoing, the state ordered a full review to ensure the integrity of the investigative process by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara.

The investigator the state hired is Bart Schwartz. The governor's office says he has more than 30 years of experience managing complex problems in both the public and private sectors. Schwartz is an attorney who also served under former U.S. Attorney Rudy Giuliani and that's why the state brought him on board.

Another issue is the fact that the Schwartz contract has not yet been approved.

Using the Freedom of Information Law, NewsChannel 13 obtained letters between the governor's office and comptroller's office showing the governor asked to be exempt from the bidding process on the Schwartz contract. However, he didn't make that request until three months after the contract took effect and the comptroller's office denied the request. So what does that mean for the status of the contract? That's not clear.

NewsChannel 13 has been talking to the governor's office by phone and email over the past few weeks. At first, they refused to answer our questions and would not return our phone calls, but we continued to push for more answers with repeated calls and emails.

The comptroller's office tells NewsChannel 13 Schwartz won't be paid until they approve the contract and they can't approve it until the governor's office sends it over.

On the phone, the spokesperson for the governor’s office says the contract was submitted, but both offices are just ironing out a few details before the approval.

According to a written statement from the governor's office in April, Schwartz said he would start work immediately.

Schwartz has already done the job according to the governor's office, but hasn't seen a penny of the $450,000 contract yet.

NewsChannel 13 is still working to get answers and will keep you posted.

Credits

Dan Bazile

Copyright 2017 - WNYT-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company

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