The looming corruption trial of Joe Percoco, a former close aide to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, will likely focus on his private-sector work. Federal prosecutors say the consultant job actually allowed him to take bribes to rig economic development spending.
"Did he get approval from the commission on public ethics to do what he did?" asked Blair Horner, the NYPIRG legislative director. "We don't know the answer. There are still a lot of questions about these fights, but it is in a sense a warm up for the jury selection, which begins early in January."
Court documents recently filed by Percoco's attorney reveal details of federal prosecutors' interview with Cuomo. In a November 2016 conversation, Cuomo told prosecutors Percoco had planned to leave state service after running his 2014 re-election campaign. During that campaign, Percoco was receiving consulting fees from developers with interests in major upstate New York economic development projects. It's not clear if Cuomo knew who Percoco's clients were and if they had business before the state.
"Where it gets confusing is, here's a guy who is a top aide to the governor, goes to run his re-election and he's allowed leave and the argument now is there is no presumption he's going back to state government," Horner said.
After Cuomo won a second term, the governor persuaded Percoco to come back to state government. This is a claim backed by a statement from Linda Lacewell, a little-known but high-ranking aide to the governor. She told prosecutors she didn't know Percoco would be back on the public payroll until after the election. It's still a potential problem for Percoco, who would be barred from lobbying his former colleagues while in private-sector work.
"If true, he's still restricted from what he can do and who he can represent," Horner said.
Also at issue: Whether the evidence turned over by prosecutors gives Percoco's defense team enough time to prepare for the trial.
"That will be for the courts to decide. I'm not in a position to decide whether they got the records or not. Certainly, they should have gotten the records," Horner said.
Percoco, along with former SUNY Poly President Alain Kaloyeros and prominent upstate developers, is scheduled to be back before a judge on December 8.