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Cuomo Says He Has Not Been Subpoenaed In Probe

File: New York Governor Andrew Cuomo
Pat Bradley
Governor Andrew Cuomo at Elk Lake

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo told reporters during a visit to the Adirondacks today that he has not been subpoenaed as part of the investigation into two former aides. As WAMC’s North Country Bureau Chief Pat Bradley reports, the governor also tried to deflect any implication that he was directly aware of the staffers’ actions.

If the governor hoped to avoid the uproar over probes into corruption in Albany by retreating to the Adirondacks for an event, serenity was difficult to find. With much of the capitol press corps on hand in Essex County, where he was on hand to make a land purchase official, Gov. Cuomo was peppered with questions about former aide Joseph Percoco and lobbyist Todd Howe, both under investigation by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara.  Percoco is reportedly being investigated because he  consulted for two companies with business before New York while running Governor Cuomo’s reelection bid in 2014.  The New York Times reported on a number of questionable financial deals in Howe’s past.  Cuomo denied any knowledge of Howe’s financial improprieties.   “There is a U.S. attorney investigation. And we started our own investigation with a private investigator who is from the U.S. attorney's office originally, Mr. Bart Schwartz. Because we want to make sure that there was nothing done improper. If something improper was done then we want to make sure the corrective action is taken. We don't know yet what the facts are. We have a lot of speculation. And let's get the information. Let's get the facts and then find out what people actually did. If anyone did anything wrong I will be the first to throw the book at them.”

Cuomo said rules are clear and it was not his responsibility to ask Percoco whether his consulting clients had business before the state.   “There are laws and there are regulations and there are rules. And you are expected to follow the rules. The tax department doesn't call you up and say ‘Don't forget. Pay your taxes.’  You know you're supposed to pay your taxes. If you don't pay your taxes the responsibility is on you. You're a state employee. You know the ethics rules. You know the legal regulations. The onus is on you to follow them. Not for you to be questioned and then follow them.”

When questioned by reporters, Cuomo said he had no knowledge of Howe’s criminal background and didn’t socialize with him.  

Reporter: “You were not aware of his criminal record? You were not aware of his financial problems?”

Cuomo: “No I was not.”

Reporter: “How was that possible considering you’ve known the guy for 20 years? Were you just unaware of…”

Cuomo: “I've known you for a lot of years. I don't know anything about your background.”

Reporter:  “Did he work on your campaign in 2014?”

Cuomo:  “I don't know if he did. He worked for my father many, many years ago. He worked for, ah, was a member of the team at HUD.  I wouldn't call us close friends. But he worked for the state for a number of years. But I had no knowledge of the, his personal situation.”

As the federal probe and another internal investigation continue, Cuomo says he has not been personally subpoenaed nor questioned and took issue with media speculation.   “What I know is two people, Todd Howe and Joe Percoco, are being looked at for possible improper actions. And nobody's been charged with anything but they're being looked at. I have said to all my people, and I've said to the U.S. Attorney, anyway we can find out and be helpful and be cooperative we will be. We now need the answers. And we don't have the answers. But it is wrong for a newspaper to say a person who was being helpful to the investigation that person is under investigation. That's not right.”

Cuomo said ethics reform is his top priority for the remainder of the legislative session, scheduled to wrap in June.