Ones to Watch
Metroland roundup of some of the high-profile people
who see to it that the media always have something interesting
by Metroland staff
Eliot Spitzer rode the wave of prodigious victory to the Capitol
in 2007, campaigning the entire way that his administration
would “change the ethics of Albany.” Attorney General Andrew
Cuomo and Albany District Attorney David Soares have dedicated
considerable resources to their Public Integrity Units, jumping
into the fray of the day’s high-profile ethics scandals.
Currently, the “Troopergate” scandal, which has consumed the
media for months, highlights perspicuously the politics-as-usual
nature of Albany: Powerful state Sen. Joseph Bruno (R-Brunswick)
is caught up in allegations of misuse of state helicopters.
But before the dust settled on the accusations, he managed
to shift the weight of scandal onto his fiercest political
opponent, Gov. Spitzer. Two investigations later, it would
come out that neither man appears to have committed a crime.
Yet, if the media frenzy surrounding the rather banal Troopergate
is an indication, the public is fed up with corrupt politicians
and is ready to see some heads roll.
In an effort to help, Metroland has put together a
list of the people at the heart of some of the more egregious
allegations of corruption and misdeed. As Albany independent
candidate for the 4th Legislative District Jose Lopez would
say, these men appear to “sit at the same table that corruption
York state senator (R-Brunswick) and Senate majority leader
suspected of political kickbacks; the FBI has been tight-lipped
can be said about Sen. Joe that hasn’t already been uttered,
scribbled, or angrily slurred? A true American classic, the
scrappy onetime pugilist pulled himself up by his bootstraps
from humble beginnings to secure a long-held seat at the table
of power in New York state. His critics are quick to claim
that he runs Rensselaer County like a fiefdom, protecting
his allies-run-amok and crushing his opponents. Nothing goes
down in this county, they say, without the old man’s approval.
In political life, Bruno boasts an adeptness for the bob and
weave; his one-two combinations landing more than a few knockouts.
His masterful gamesmanship is most recently evident in the
months-long series of investigations stemming from the so-called
“Troopergate.” When allegations broke that he had used state
helicopters to travel to and from New York City for political
events, it was shaping up to be a PR calamity. Though his
travels were not illegal, they were definitely questionable.
Dogged by extremely public battles with the new, feisty governor,
Eliot Spitzer, Bruno took the opportunity to slap down his
nemesis, and shifted the onus of scandal onto the new governor’s
shoulders by exclaiming that the Spitzer administration had
used the New York State Police to spy on him. The state attorney
general’s office investigated and found that neither men had
committed a crime. And now, even after Albany District Attorney
David Soares has cleared Spitzer of any wrongdoing, Bruno’s
Senate has moved forward and voted itself subpoena power to
continue its own investigation into the Spitzer administration.
The Brunswick Bruiser is nothing if not tenacious.
Proving harder to dodge for 78-year-old Bruno, however, is
the FBI investigation that came to light late last year. Though
the senator claims the feds are only interested in his “outside
business interests,” all eyes have turned to his onetime business
partner and friend, Jared Abbruzzese.
Bruno, it has been alleged, took personal gifts from uber-rich
entrepreneur Abbruzzese in exchange for state grant money.
Although the FBI has not said what it is investigating regarding
Bruno, Abbruzzese himself has become the target of a state
lobbying commission investigation. The commission findings
report that the $34,100 of air travel, which Abbruzzese arranged
for Bruno, was in violation of lobbying law that caps campaign
contributions at $75. In apparent exchange for these travel
gifts, Bruno arranged for two $250,000 state member-item grants
for Abbruzzese’s Troy-based firm, Evident Technologies Inc.
Bruno has not been implicated in the state investigation.
The FBI investigation is ongoing. U.S. Attorney Glenn Suddaby,
who has been investigating the case, recently was nominated
for a federal judgeship.
Threat Level: high
Crooked dealing and financial flirtations with Sen. Joseph
Wealthy Loudonville businessman Abbruzzese currently is entangled
in the FBI investigation of his friend, Senate Majority Leader
Bruno, though neither of the men have stated what, exactly,
is being investigated.
A report by the state lobbying commission stated that Abbruzzese
gave $34,100 worth of private jet flights to Bruno, in violation
of lobbying law that bans gifts to public officials over $75.
The flights are suspected to be a reciprocation for Bruno’s
investment of state funds into Evident Technologies Inc.,
a nanotechnology company Abbruzzese helped to create. The
company received two $250,000 member-item grants from Bruno,
though state money allocated for member items is meant to
be given to nonprofit organizations. According to the Times
Union, the grants are under investigation by the FBI.
Abbruzzese has further ties to Bruno through their shared
investment in the horseracing industry. While co-chair of
Evident, Abbruzzese’s partner, Wayne Barr, was Bruno’s appointee
on the New York Racing Association. After the lobbying commission
began investigation of Abbruzzese, he rescinded his position
with Empire Racing Associates, one of four bidders Bruno could
approve to operate the state’s racing franchise.
In 2002, Abbruzzese’s consulting firm, Communication Technology
Advisors (CTA), was hired by Motient Corp., a wireless communications
company, to provide financial advice, while Abbruzzese was
still a director at Motient. CTA received millions from the
transaction, according to Business Week.
Abbruzzese then allegedly pressured Motient to hire Tejas,
Inc., an investment bank from whom he had purchased thousands
of shares of stock. Bruno said that he bought stock in Tejas
as well. After the hiring, Tejas’ shares increased by 900
Abbruzzese has been called to a civil penalty hearing under
the newly created State Commission on Public Integrity, which
will be formed at the end of the month, though he continues
to fight the subpoena. He faces up to $250,000 in penalties
for the flights alone, though it has been pointed out that
loopholes in the system may clear him from being charged with
The IRS has filed a lien against Abbruzzese and his wife Sherrie
for $2.9 million, from their 2005 income taxes. The FBI investigation
Threat Level: medium
from the pension fund
from the state attorney general and Albany County district
attorney’s office are looking into whether aides and political
allies of former state Comptroller Alan Hevesi were awarded
contracts by investment firms that did business with the $154
state pension fund, of which Hevesi was the sole manager.
Hevesi allegedly poured hundreds of millions of dollars into
firms that then paid money to companies affiliated with Hank
Morris, Hevesi’s former top political consultant.
One such company is Searle & Co., a small Greenwich, Conn.,
financial- services firm. The New York Post reports
that Morris received $13 million from the firm, while also
earning money on the sly as a board member at eSpeed, a company
that processed trades for the pension fund.
According to the current state comptroller, Thomas P. DiNapoli,
documents relevant to the case disappeared following the resignation
of Hevesi appointee David Loglisci, who served as deputy comptroller
for pension investment and cash management.
In order to conduct a full investigation, New York Attorney
General Andrew M. Cuomo has invoked the Martin Act, a law
that gives complete authority of investigation to the attorney
general’s office, including subpoena power and the ability
to file civil and criminal proceedings.
Other matters being looked into are whether Hevesi’s former
chief of staff, Jack Chartier, engaged a state-employed driver
to chauffer former Mod Squad actress Peggy Lipton,
and whether Hevesi’s sons, Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi (D-Queens)
and Daniel Hevesi, who works for a hedge fund, also benefited
from their father’s misdoings.
The investigations are icing on the cake for Hevesi who was
accused by Republican opponent Christopher Callaghan during
last year’s election of using a state employee to chauffeur
his wife. The chauffeur arrangement would have been acceptable
if Hevesi had reimbursed the state, which, he claimed, he
“forgot” to do.
Then-Attorney General Eliot Spitzer had the comptroller place
$90,000 in an escrow account until both the state Ethics Commission
and the attorney general’s office completed investigations.
Despite the scandal, Hevesi defeated the inexperienced Callaghan
soundly. Soon after his reelection, Hevesi was found guilty
of defrauding state government of $180,000, “with no intention
of paying the state back,” according to Gov. Pataki-appointed
prosecutor, David Kelley. Spitzer concurred.
After another investigation by Albany District Attorney David
Soares found that there was criminal intent in Hevesi’s actions,
Hevesi took a plea bargain with the Albany County Court on
Dec. 22, 2006, and resigned from his office.
Ongoing investigation that keeps revealing new alleged crimes.
Threat Level: medium
United States congressman, Republican, 20th District
alleged ethical violations, undue influence on state police
earned his nickname “Congressman Kickass” from President George
W. Bush thanks to the take-no-prisoners style he put to use
during the Brooks Brothers Riot amid the Florida recounts
of the 2000 election. Sweeney reportedly led that interference.
During his eight years as representative for the 20th Congressional
District, Sweeney faced down, and mostly avoided, myriad ethical
questions. One of the most striking concerns focused on a
trip Sweeney took to the Marianas Islands with associates
of crooked lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Sweeney failed to disclose
that his trip was privately funded, which is a violation of
congressional rules. He insisted that Marianas officials had
paid for the trip, an accusation they deny.
Sweeney had a number of other ethical dilemmas involving lobbyists
On top of that, Sweeney had a reputation of partying just
a little bit too hard. Pictures of his notoriously red-faced
visit to a Union College frat house spread through the Internet
like wildfire. The story of Sweeney’s one-car accident in
2001 was also popular among his political enemies, as Sweeney
was never administered a sobriety test despite the fact that
he admitted to consuming alcohol before the crash.
Sweeney’s many critics all assumed that one of the plethora
of ethical questions dogging the congressman would be what
cost him his seat. Instead, a media-revealed police report
regarding a domestic-violence incident involving Sweeney and
his wife, Gaia, began his descent. And it was his response
to the report that may have truly cost him his seat. Sweeney
charged that the report was false, perhaps the work of his
political enemies. But later Sweeney and his wife acknowledged
that they knowingly lied. Earlier this month, the state Police
Benevolent Association delivered a comprehensive report on
changes needed in the state police.
The report noted that there was an active cover-up inside
the state police to make the domestic violence call to Sweeney’s
home look like a “generic service call.” The report further
requested the establishment of a review panel that could look
into ethical dilemmas such as the Sweeney cover-up.
As he currently is dealing with the results of a rather nasty
and public divorce, it is questionable whether Sweeney will
try to recapture his seat next fall from Kirsten Gillibrand.
If Sweeney were to throw his hat back in the political arena,
his ethical baggage presumably would come with him.
Threat Level: low
Bob has earned the moniker: Troy commissioner of public works;
majority leader in the Rensselaer County Legislature (R-Troy);
and constituent liaison for Sen. Bruno
Running a political-campaign consultancy business out of the
Rensselaer County legislative offices, and engineering election-year
Mirch is known in Rensselaer County for his aggressive, take-no-prisoners
politicking. So when the allegations surrounding “Tonyagate”
hit the presses earlier this year, none of his critics was
According to former Sand Lake supervisor and onetime Rensselaer
County Republican staffer Colleen Regan, it happened back
in 2005, when Mirch whisked her away from her duties at the
legislature. Together, she claimed, the two traveled in a
public vehicle to Troy City Hall. There, during office hours,
she said, she was forced to perform a very unique, and illegal,
bit of election-year campaigning. Sitting in Troy Deputy Mayor
Dan Crawley’s office, she was handed a script and told to
assume the personage of a fictional woman named “Tonya.” She
then read from the script, accusing Troy City Councilman Bill
Dunne (D-District 4), who was reeking reelection at the time,
of sexually harassing her. The message was to be used as part
of the political campaign of Dunne’s opponent.
Two years later, after getting fired from her position with
the majority, Regan’s allegation came out in an unrelated
complaint that she filed regarding her dismissal with the
state Department of Human Rights. Seizing upon Regan’s affidavit,
Troy Democrats clamored for an investigation, and Albany County
District Attorney David Soares was appointed special prosecutor
to do just that.
And it doesn’t stop there. In a second affidavit, which Regan
filed with Soares’ office, she widened the scope of her allegations.
In this affidavit, she alleged that Mirch was running a consultancy
firm, Victory Lanes LLC., with business partner Richard Crist,
out of the Rensselaer County legislative offices. Meanwhile,
outside of the work done for Victory Lane, she said, county
staffers were routinely employed to perform political campaign
work, including preparing fundraising mailers, solicitation
letters, letters to residents, “reminder cards to vote on
primary day, do me a favor cards.”
Republican headquarters was not down in the Atrium [in downtown
Troy],” Regan said. “It was in the Rensselaer County Legislature.”
Mirch has denied the charges and accused Regan of being a
The Albany district attorney’s office investigation is ongoing.
Threat Level: medium
Sexual harassment, and running a business out of the Rensselaer
County legislative offices
After losing her job with the Republicans in the Rensselaer
County Legislature, Colleen Regan filed a formal complaint
with the state Department of Human Rights. In it, she claimed
that she had been fired in retaliation for rebuffing the pervasive
sexual advances of her superior, Crist. Mirch and Rensselaer
County Chairman Neil Kelleher immediately defended Crist,
decrying the accusations.
Though Regan’s accusations of abuse didn’t stop with sexual
impropriety. In a following affidavit, she went on to detail
allegations of election-year skullduggery, and misuse of city
and county resources by Crist and Mirch. These allegations
attracted widespread attention, eventually leading to the
appointment of Albany County District Attorney David Soares
as special prosecutor. In a second affidavit to Soares’ office,
Regan outlined endemic abuses of Rensselaer County staff for
political campaigns. Further, she described how Crist, along
with business partner Mirch, ran their campaign consultancy
firm Victory Lanes, LLC, out of the offices of the Rensselaer
County Legislature. The two men, she deposed, were charging
upwards of $5,000 a race to help candidates with their campaigns.
and my coworkers witnessed various candidates, which were
running for an elected office,” Regan deposed, “frequently
visit the legislature on a regular basis during their election
campaign season to consult with Mr. Crist. . . . These candidates
were clients of Victory Lanes, LLC, and were seeking out Mr.
Crist’s expertise regarding their election campaign strategy,
while Mr. Crist was on the job at the county.”
She goes on to list 11 candidates, including Troy City Councilman
Mark Wojcik, Nassau Supervisor Carol Sanford, and Troy City
Council President Henry Bauer, who allegedly visited the Legislature
building to take advantage of Victory Lanes’ services.
Crist has denied Regan’s allegations, telling Metroland
that he looks “forward to speaking with the special prosecutor,
to clear up these charges.”
The Albany County district attorney’s office and Deptartment
of Human Rights investigations are ongoing.
Threat Level: low
Springs comissioner of public works
30-year incumbent as the commissioner of Public Works in Saratoga
Springs, McTygue follows the legacy of his father, who also
occupied the powerful position for a number of years. Although
a Democrat by registration, McTygue is an ally of Republican
Majority Leader Joe Bruno (R-Brunswick) and has close ties
to a number of wealthy Republican developers. As DPW commissioner,
McTygue has made friends with his beautification projects
and enemies with his tenacious dogging of perceived enemies.
McTygue currently faces a Department of Environmental Conservation
investigation into oil spills in the Department of Public
Works garage that some workers say were scheduled to be covered
up rather than cleaned up. Reports suggest the investigations
scope has widened to other areas including illegal dumping
on the site of the cities planned recreation center. Meanwhile,
numerous sources inside and outside the DPW department carry
the cards of several FBI agents who they claim have interviewed
them regarding an investigation into McTygue. They insist
McTygue has gotten too close to developers during his long
time in office and that he wields the DPW as a political tool.
McTygue denies the accusations and insists that talk of an
FBI investigation has been manufactured by his political enemies
and that the scope of the DEC investigation has been increased
thanks to undue influence by the husband of his political
nemesis, Saratoga Springs Mayor Valerie Keehn. David Keehn
works at the DEC.
McTygue repeatedly has faced down accusations that he does
not actually reside in the city of Saratoga Springs, despite
the fact that he openly admits that he lives on a farm outside
of the city limits.
The progress of the DEC ‘s investigation is not quite clear.
All that is for sure is that it is ongoing. The status of
any alleged FBI investigation is far from clear, as the FBI
does not confirm or deny any investigation.
Threat Level: medium
head of the Urban League of Northeastern New York
When Dare became president of the Urban League in 1996, he
worked to shift the league’s focus onto real-estate ventures.
The most ambitious of these ventures was a $40 million commercial
and residential complex, Gateway Commons, in Arbor Hill, ventured
with capital from Housing and Urban Development and local
banks, among others. The largest tenant on the property was
the National Finance Corporation (NFC), which was expected
to bring hundreds of jobs to the inner city. Dare was lauded
as a hero by residents and elected officials.
However, in 1998, things begun to collapse as the league fell
into heavy debt and NFC backed out of the deal, citing its
own financial corruption. In 2001, then-Attorney General Eliot
Spitzer declared that Dare misdirected state and federal taxes
and prohibited him from working in a financial or policymaking
position in the state for 10 years.
Dare had created several real estate corporations—Emerge Real
Properties, LLC; Emerge Construction; and Emerge Residential
Historic Community I, II, and III—and he declared his intentions
to restore historic and inner-city properties to create affordable
housing. Using $7.4 million in HUD funds, Dare bought inner-city
properties in Albany and Schenectady and placed them under
the management of convicted felon Robert Bove. The properties
fell into disrepair, and Dare ceased making mortgage payments.
In 2004, HUD foreclosed on the properties, forcing taxpayers
to lose millions.
For two years, Dare was missing in action, until he reappeared
in Albany, drinking $900 bottles of cognac with Kenneth Wilcox,
a former Albany Police detective, who would go on to die in
a car crash. Dare worked with Wilcox and “others” to act as
fake real-estate buyers. He was arrested in 2006, and was
released after pleading guilty in federal court to felony
charges regarding fraudulent real-estate sales. The state
police arrested Dare on Aug. 1 for fraudulent real-estate
practices in Albany’s South End, as well as for coercing appraisers
into raising the value of decrepit properties.
According to Albany District Attorney David Soares, Dare has
been indicted on four felony counts for real-estate scams
as of Sept. 12. of this year. Prosecutors have expressed concern
that Dare may be a flight risk, as he has money stashed in
offshore accounts. Federal sentencing is scheduled for this
Threat Level: high