I-Team 10 Investigation: State probe into county contracts heating up
Updated: 10/10/2013 6:31 PM
Created: 10/10/2013 1:38 PM WHEC.com
By: Brett Davidsen
I-Team 10 has told you about a criminal investigation into the awarding of county contracts. Now a local lawmaker says your public dollars are being spent on lawyers to represent the Monroe County Water Authority in that investigation. The executive director of the water authority says hiring a law firm is a "preemptive move.”
The New York State Attorney General's Office has been investigating for months now. They're looking at how the county awarded multi-million dollar contracts to local development corporations, companies created by the county. A grand jury has been hearing evidence that could lead to indictments in the investigation.
A source with knowledge of the investigation says a first wave of indictments in the case could come as early as next week. At this point, it's still not completely clear who those individual targets are. But Thursday, the Monroe County Water Authority took action to protect itself.
In the board room of the Monroe County Water Authority, a vote to hire a criminal law firm to assist amid a growing state investigation into county contracts.
Nicholas Noce, Monroe County Water Authority Executive Director, said,"I really believe the water authority is in good standing. Unfortunately, we are concerned. There is an investigation and we have to take what actions are prudent to protect the authority."
That means $3,500 retainer fee to the law firm and about $10,000 in invoiced work so far on the taxpayer's dime.
Carrie Andrews, (D) County Legislature Minority Leader, said, "Just concerned that Monroe County taxpayers are now paying the legal expenses. Now taxpayers in Monroe County will be paying legal expenses for this criminal investigation."
The state has been investigating the county's use of two local development corporations to contract for public safety systems and for upgraded information technology. The local development corporations(LDCs) are private, not-for-profit corporations created by governments to finance projects, but exempt from public scrutiny and competitive bidding requirements. In this case, the two LDCs farmed out tens of millions of dollars in work to other companies.
Andrews said, “We've been concerned certainly about these transactions and arrangements for a long time."
An audit by the New York State Comptroller's Office found irregularities in the contracts, questioning the savings to taxpayers and whether companies with close ties to the county got preferential treatment.
That prompted the attorney general to open a criminal probe.
News10NBC caught up with a board member of one of those LDCs, Monroe Security and Safety Systems, also known as M3S. He says they are cooperating with the attorney general's investigation.
Anthony LaFountain, Monroe Security and Safety Systems, said, "The only thing I can say is that in the past, M3S has been asked for materials, minutes and things like that and we've turned that over."
In another development Thursday, the county confirms it has accepted the resignation of its chief information officer. Nelson Rivera, who worked closely with those LDCs, resigned Wednesday. Reached by phone, his attorney would not divulge the reason for the resignation, but acknowledged he is representing Rivera in the criminal probe, but would not say if Rivera was a target of investigators.