October 11, 2018 07:24 PM
The U.S. Attorney's Office for the western district of New York was pretty clear on one thing: New York State Assemblyman Joe Errigo accepted bribes to sponsor a bill to affect a local project.
But the feds won't identify what the project is or the identity of another state lawmaker brought up in the complaint.
That has led to all kinds of speculation in our community.
The complaint filed against Assemblyman Errigo Wednesday is so vague it's causing everyone to wonder who the other characters involved in this alleged scheme are.
But News10NBC used our sources and our previous reporting to at least narrow down the likely project.
Based on everything we know, the "pending development project" mentioned in the court complaint appears to be the Whole Foods project on Monroe Avenue in Brighton.
1) The project was looking for incentive zoning. The bill introduced by Errigo, in exchange for $5,500 in bribes according to the complaint, specifically mentions "zoning incentives."
2) The Whole Foods project is on State Route 31, Monroe Avenue. The bill only affects a project on a road "under the jurisdiction" of the NYS Department of Transportation.
3) The project needed approval by the Town of Brighton. The bill specifically involves zoning issues approved by a "town board."
At the news conference immediately after Assemblyman Errigo's arraignment, News10NBC tried to get the U.S. attorney to be specific.
News10NBC Chief Investigative Reporter Berkeley Brean: "What was the pending development project?"
James Kennedy, U.S. Attorney Western NY: "It was a development project. Again, it wasn't specified in the complaint. We're limited to what information we can reveal which has been publicly filed."
When we contacted Anthony Daniele, who's family company is bringing Whole Foods to Rochester, he said he didn't know anything about bill sponsored by Errigo but says the bill would hurt Whole Foods.
"After reviewing the bill introduced by Mr. Errigo, had it passed, there's little question that it would have directly and negatively effected our Whole Foods development," Daniele said in a statement via text.
When we contacted the groups against Whole Foods, they say they had nothing to do with it either.
Save Monroe says, "Save Monroe Avenue has absolutely nothing to do with the U.S. Attorney's allegations regarding Assemblyman Errigo. It's unfortunate if the Developer is implying otherwise. Although the Daniele Family Companies claim the bill would impact their project, the proposed legislation was not retroactive, and therefore would not have affected projects such as theirs, which were already approved by a town prior to the legislation's enactment. Nothing should distract from the fact that this Project is far too big, will worsen already poor traffic conditions, and is devoid of any actual incentives or benefits to the community. We hope the U.S. Attorney's office identifies the project at issue, and provides more information, so any unwarranted speculation and innuendo will stop."
Brighton Grassroots says, "We have been asked by the press whether the criminal charges against Assemblyman Joseph Errigo involve the proposed Whole Foods Plaza Project in Brighton, given that an Assembly Bill involving "zoning incentives" was allegedly introduced by him in late March. We do not know whether the charges are related to this Project, or whether the proposed Assembly Bill would help or hurt the Project. Neither Brighton Grassroots nor Howie Jacobson had anything to do with the charges against Assemblyman Errigo. We ask that the U.S. Attorney's Office provide more details in the coming days."
The U.S. attorney says the bribery scheme started more than a year ago.
Kennedy: "[The investigation] arose following the formulation of a plan a little over a year ago for a bribe to be paid to a member of the New York State Assembly, someone identified as Member A, someone other than Assemblyman Errigo."
Kennedy says the bribe payer and a lobbyist enlisted Assemblyman Errigo so the bill could not be traced back to Member A.
News10NBC asked the U.S. Attorney's Office again on Thursday for the identity of Member A. The response via email was, "That information was not included in the complaint."
The Whole Foods project is in Assemblyman Joe Morelle's district. We asked Morelle's communications director Thursday if Morelle knew about the Errigo bill and if he is Member A.
Here is the statement from Morelle's office:
"The charges against Joe Errigo are shameful. There can be no tolerance for those who betray their responsibilities to the public. Joe Errigo failed to uphold his oath as a public servant and abused his elected office for personal gain. Our community and state deserve better.
Assemblyman Morelle has long maintained that honesty, integrity, and accountability among those in public service are essential tenets to ensuring that our government remains effective and responsive. When those who serve and those who intersect with our government abuse the public's trust, it is critical that we hold them accountable for their crimes and take immediate action to safeguard the public's interests.
Unfortunately, the details provided in the U.S. Attorney's indictment leave many questions unanswered, including the unknown identity of "Assemblymember A." This has led to public speculation. Assemblyman Morelle did not participate in the events described in the U.S Attorney's criminal complaint nor did he have any prior knowledge of those events. At no time has he or any member of his office been contacted by any law enforcement agency regarding this matter.
To that end, this criminal complaint has generated considerable public interest, particularly as we approach the upcoming general election and has cast a cloud over many members of the State Assembly who have dedicated themselves to maintaining the highest ethical standards of public service. It is our hope that in the coming days the U.S. Attorney provides clarity regarding the participants and project in question."
The bill, A10227, was introduced in the New York State Assembly Transportation Committee.
The chair of the committee is Assemblyman David Gantt from Rochester.
Wednesday, Gantt told News10NBC he has no knowledge of the bill Errigo introduced, and that he does not know who Member A is.
Assemlyman Gantt added that he has been home sick for two years with kidney issues and has missed a lot of time in Albany.
However, on Thursday, Grant released the following statement:
" Corruption and impropriety have no role in state government and I am profoundly disappointed in the behavior of my colleague. In regard to the assembly member's bill at the heart of this issue, not only do I not support this bill, I have never supported it or do i support those who have sought its passage. I am proud that during my tenure in the Assembly, I have worked for the people and only the people in my district and have never taken money or favors from anyone."
Local Assemblyman Harry Bronson is also on the Transportation Committee. The Assembly records show Bronson voted to hold the bill in committee which effectively ends it.
Updated: October 11, 2018 07:24 PM
Created: October 11, 2018 07:11 PM
Copyright 2018 - WHEC-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company