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Cuomo campaign, Molinaro trade accusations of corruption as GOP candidate visits Buffalo

Twitter/@RaymondWWalter (used with permission)

What's known as his "Cuomo Corruption Tour" came to Buffalo Friday morning. Marc Molinaro, the Republican-endorsed candidate for governor, stood outside the Tesla plant in Buffalo's Riverbend neighborhood, attacking Governor Andrew Cuomo's administration as rife with pay-to-play culture. But the Cuomo camp says Molinaro has conducted such behavior in his role as Dutchess County Executive.

Molinaro began his tour Tuesday in Albany, making subsequent stops in cities including Syracuse, Watertown, Rochester and Buffalo.

"The governor just doesn’t seem to learn," Molinaro said. "And I’m sorry, but he continues to operate a state government that seems to think that it is better than the people which they serve."

Joining Molinaro at his Buffalo "tour stop" Friday morning were Assemblymen Ray Walter, David DiPietro and Erik Bohen, all of whom took shots at what they describe as a culture of corruption within the Cuomo Administration. Walter pointed to the Tesla plant, noting it was the most expensive investment in the governor's Buffalo Billion economic development program.

"A symbol that started with such promise but now is associated with corruption and bid-rigging," said Walter.  

Molinaro's visit came one day after the sentencing of Joseph Percoco, a former longtime aide to Cuomo, who was convicted of fraud and bribery charges. He was sentenced to six years in prison Thursday.

"It is one more indication that over the last seven years, this governor has allowed for the most corrupted administration in America, with half a dozen individuals associated with economic development and the management of this administration found guilty of federal corruption charges," Molinaro said. 

Cuomo campaign officials have accused Molinaro of his own corruption and on Friday, in response to the GOP contender's remarks, pointed to a contract awarded to Tinkelman Architects, a Poughkeepsie-based firm that has donated to Molinaro's campaign. The Cuomo camp alleges Molinaro awarded the contract to a firm that employed his wife and has enjoyed a reduction in its tax liability. 

Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown, who is also the New York State Democratic Committee Chairman, issued a prepared written statement: "It’s clear Molinaro tried to hide this very clear conflict from the public. State law requires local governments to have ethics laws and procedures mandating full disclosure. Dutchess officials either knew about the conflict and acted anyway, which violated their public duty and fiduciary obligation, or did nothing. Did they inquire if his spouse profited from the contract? Was it a quid pro quo? Did Molinaro discuss the contract with local officials?

"Molinaro refuses to answer questions on the Tinkelman contract. If there was nothing to hide, he wouldn't be hiding. He said today his spouse was interviewed there in 2015. Did she work there in 2015 or 2016? Molinaro needs to disclose when she was hired and when she left."

Molinaro didn't directly address the Tinkelman contract but did offer a response to accusations of his own corruption.

"The governor is simply trying to distract from the fact that he has operated and managed a criminal enterprise. He has benefited from millions upon millions of dollars," he said. "Me and my county, we follow the law. Always have and always will."

Michael Mroziak is an experienced, award-winning reporter whose career includes work in broadcast and print media. When he joined the WBFO news staff in April 2015, it was a return to both the radio station and to Horizons Plaza.
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