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Grand Jury investigating LDCs
Monroe County, N.Y. - For months an investigation into how certain Local Development Corporations or LDCs have contracted with Monroe County has been ongoing.
The New York State Attorney General s Office is leading the way according to sources. A spokeswoman for A.G. Eric Schneiderman tells 13WHAM News that the office does not comment on ongoing grand jury investigations.
The Democrat and Chronicle published a detailed piece in Sundays paper that described the investigation as gaining steam.
"From what we've been told the investigation is looking at alleged bid-rigging and favoritism with the awarding of some of those contracts, explained Democrat and Chronicle Investigative Reporter Gary Craig. As far as cases connected to public government and so forth this is the largest I've seen.
The focus of the investigation is two LDCs established by Monroe County that were both criticized in audits conducted by New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli.
One LDC is called Upstate Telecommunications Corp. or UTC and the organizations ten year contract with Monroe County pays nearly $100 million. The contract places UTC in charge of providing updated services and infrastructure for the countys phone and IT systems.
The other LDC criticized in an audit was Monroe Security and Safety Systems or M3S. This LDC was established to provide updated public safety radio and security systems to the county. The contract for M3S is for twenty years and more than $220 million.
"He's been very critical and he says they've just been havens for favoritism, explained Craig of Comptroller DiNapolis audits. The audits he did that have been critical of the couple (LDCs) we have here in Monroe County may very well be the templates for the investigation that is going on.
Monroe County Executive Maggie Brooks has repeatedly responded to those audits calling them politically motivated and insisting that these LDC contracts save taxpayers money despite the Comptrollers assertions.
Following the Comptrollers audit of UTC Brooks told 13WHAM News, "To be honest with you I think the State Comptroller's Office got it wrong."
In July, Monroe County contracted with former New York State Attorney General and U.S. Attorney Dennis Vacco. Vacco is to be paid $275 per hour and is charged with protecting the countys interest and interfacing with the various investigating authorities according to a county spokesman. The county has cooperated fully with the investigations the spokesman added.
Federal authorities have also been involved in the seizure of documents and evidence in the past year. Whether or not the federal probe is related to, or completely different than, the state investigation is not known at this time.
"It does come down to a basic question of trusting your government, Craig said of the investigations. And that isn't to say that we know anything has been done improperly by the government but hopefully we get an answer sometime in the near future.