It is being widely rumored among political operatives that Alain Kaloyeros, the former head of SUNY Polytechnic and a principle target of public corruption charges that have engulfed the administration of Governor Andrew Cuomo, is offering the United States Attorney new evidence relating to the Buffalo Billion project once known as ‘Solar City.’
A source familiar with the investigation suggests that, in exchange for testimony implicating Cuomo in several ‘contracts-for-campaign contribution’ arrangements, that Kaloyeros would serve a reduced prison sentence — relative to what he could have faced if found guilty. But, they prognosticate, that such an arrangement may even require that Kaloyeros confirms prosecutors’ allegations against Lou Ciminelli, who had essentially controlled the region’s government funded construction industry for decades.
It’s unclear whether he could negotiate with prosecutors to retain a lucrative state pension associated with his professorship, which is sure to be a major point of contention in any such discussions.
Kaloyeros is said to have been ‘deeply shaken’ following the stunning guilty verdict on three of six felony charges against Joe Percoco, Governor Andrew Cuomo’s chief political enforcer. Percoco had long been referred to as Mario Cuomo’s “third son,” and faces a possible 50 years in prison when sentenced.
Kaloyeros spearheaded the Solar City project, in which the construction firm LP Ciminelli improperly edited a Request for Proposals that Kaloyeros approved — inserting a requirement that only firms with a 50 year operating history would be considered eligible to bid — which they later secured in a public procurement process that Kaloyeros directly managed.
The evidence of bid rigging and bribery is said to be so clearly demonstrated in email exchanges between Lou Ciminelli and his two executives, Michael Lapple and Kevin Schulyer (both of whom were also indicted in the scheme) that Kaloyeros has begun cooperating with prosecutors in recent days.
Kaloyeros — indicted on three counts of wire fraud — was the highest paid public employee in New York, making more than $800,000 annually. He was tapped by Cuomo to lead economic development projects across upstate, including those related to the now-disgraced Buffalo Billion program.
The Solar City project included a $750 million subsidy from taxpayers. It is now considered by many as a failed symbol of public corruption and political graft — mentioned in the same breadth as Solyndra — under the guise of ‘economic development.’
Although more than 1,500 jobs were promised at the South Buffalo factory, the massive structure sits largely empty, with the exception of a few dozen ‘call center’ positions. Applicants with engineering degrees have been offered salaries of $30,000 a year at the facility, provoking outrage among many activists.
The actual cost of that structure’s construction was less than half of the state’s $750 million subsidy, experts in the construction industry have since alleged. That margin would not be atypical of Ciminelli’s work on government funded construction projects. Buffalo School Board members have alleged that Ciminelli took a 40% profit margin on the $1.2 billion school reconstruction project initiated under Governor George Pataki.
For his part, Kaloyeros was suspended in September of 2016 following prosecutors’ release of the complaint, and later resigned his leadership post in order to retain his tenured professorship with SUNY.
Kaloyeros, Ciminelli, Lapple, and Schulyer are currently scheduled to face trial in the Southern District of New York in May; but a newly cooperating witness could further delay that start date.
Kaloyeros is also facing state bid-rigging charges in another trial — alongside Capital Region developer Joe Nicolla of Columbia Development — in a case resulting from the construction of a now-defunct SUNY Polytechnic dorm project.
It is thought among political operatives close to Ciminelli, that the longtime contractor was “wholly unaware” of Kaloyeros’ potential cooperation with prosecutors — prompting some to wonder whether Ciminelli himself will scramble to secure such a deal with prosecutors as well.