NYS Exposed: Government groups push for 'database of deals'

June 22, 2018 06:26 AM

Government groups pushed the state to create a database of all economic development deals so taxpayers can track how their money is being used. 

It was their number one goal and it had wide legislative support, but they say one man stood in the way. 


"Probably the biggest disappointment at the end of this session," said Assemblyman Bob Oaks.

Oaks was one of the fifty assembly sponsors of the bill to create this 'database of deals'. But it failed to even be voted on in the assembly after the Senate passed it unanimously.

Oaks added, "We're in the midst right now of a corruption trial in Buffalo.  It's directly related to these types of dollars and yet we leave Albany now without legislation passed." 

"It's just an obvious thing...," added John Kaehny at Reinvent Albany.

Kaehny is one of many who have made this a session-long push for change. 

Back in April, News10NBC took this concern to the agency now tasked with spending many of those economic development dollars.

News10NBC Chief Investigative Reporter Berkeley Brean spoke with Vincent Esposito, director of Empire State Development. 

"Well, we always try our best to be as transparent as possible. In seven years, the Finger Lakes Regional Council has awarded 715 different projects, over $570 million," stated Esposito. 

Esposito added, "All of those project deals and the status of them are online now.." 

That's all true, however, Kaehny estimates that the state spends four billion dollars every year on economic development.

"It's very, very hard, I would say impossible for watch-dog groups and journalists to figure out where that money is going, really speaks to the need for this," said Kaehny. 

He says eight other states have a 'database of deals' including New York City. 

But despite widespread support in the legislature, the assembly failed to act.

Kaehny points blame at one person, Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Brean: "Why do you think the governor is behind this, it's the assembly that won't pass the bill?

Kaehny: "Well the assembly included the 'database of deals' in their one-house budget bill, which is their list of spending and policy priorities. And we have many, many sources that say that this is because the governor has asked speaker Heastie to not allow this to come to a vote." 

News10NBC reached out to the governor's office but received no response.

State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie's office also failed to return News10NBC's phone calls.

Brean: "So, where do we go from here?" 

Kaehny: "Well, we're going to keep plugging away. I mean, nothing is easy in Albany." 

It won't be until January of next year before this legislation can officially be discussed in the New York State Legislature.        


Berkeley Brean

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