New York State Inspector General Joseph Fisch asserted top state legislative leaders and the governor's office solicited campaign contributions and political advantage in the process of awarding lucrative video slot machine contracts for the benefit of Aqueduct racetrack to a consortium that was later found to be disqualified. Download Report to the Governor on the Integrity of Those Seeking to Operate the Racetracks at Aqueduct, Belmont Park and Saratoga
The report was referred to the U.S. Attorney's Office and the Manhattan District Attorney's Office.
Inspector General Joseph Fisch asserts the selection of Aqueduct Entertainment Group in january of this year by Gov. David Paterson, Senate Democratic Conference Leader John Sampson, and NYS Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver followed a process that removed lobbying restrictions and let campaign cash flow to decision makers.
According to the report, NYS Senate leaders leaked an internal memo containing competitors' bid information to AEG, originally a low-ranked bidder, helping it move up in the processing. An assistant to Senate Secretary Angelo Aponte e-mailed the memo to AEG consultant Hank Sheinkopf, and Mr. Aponte, when questioned, claimed not to recall why that was done. Mr. Sheinkopf invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination in declining to answer.
Mr. Fisch was forwarding findings by his investigators, who subpoenaed documents and witnesses, to the prosecutors. He was also sending it to the state Legislative Ethics Commission to review the actions of Messrs. Sampson and Aponte, as well as Senate President Malcolm Smith.
The report questioned testimony given under oath to Mr. Fisch's investigators by several officials, including Messrs, Sampson and Aponte and Senate Racing & Wagering Committee Chairman Eric Adams, who also pushed for AEG's selection, citing statements as doubtful in light of other information or "straining credulity."
Paterson spokesman Morgan Hook said they were reviewing the report, but added it was "indisputable" that Mr. Paterson subsequently refashioned the selection process, leading to a new contractor who will likely be breaking ground next week after years of delay.
Mr. Sampson said he will continue an internal review that already led to recommendations for a lobbyist ban, pre-licensing of bidders and other steps. "Mistakes were made at various levels of government, and we must collectively learn a lesson," he said.
After AEG was disqualified, the contract to build and operate about 4,525 of the machines at the thoroughbred track in Queens was awarded to Genting New York.