Audit questions costs for Thruway events Authority defends food, party bills, Cuomo to go on bus tour, to defend his pathetic record


Joseph Spector

Albany Bureau Chief

ALBANY — A state audit released Friday ques­tioned the state Thruway Authority [Cuomo] for dropping $8,000 on a holiday dinner for employees and spend­ing $3,630 on food for a two-day staff conference.

“Authority policy per­mits employee recogni­tion and service awards,” the audit from Comptrol­ler Thomas DiNapoli’s of­fice said. “While such a policy fosters employee morale, the policy should provide guidance as to reasonable amounts for such expenses.”

The audit examined 113 payments for discretion­ary spending[frivilous] totaling $87,840 from 2010 through 2012.

Auditors questioned 10 payments totaling $14,557, saying it’s “un­clear how the authority determined the reason­ableness of the expenses.”

Those included eight payments totaling $9,457 for various employee rec­ognition events, including almost $8,000 for the holi­day dinner. The other two payments totaled $5,100 for food at staff confer­ences, including $3,630 for one two-day staff con­ference.

In a response to the au­dit, Thruway Authority executive director Thom­as Madison said the au­thority has strict spend­ing guidelines that have resulted in $900,000 in re­ductions in travel and overtime expenses since 2012. He said the authority plans to end the year with a decrease in operating expenses of 12 percent, a $60 million drop. It’s also reduced capital construc­tion costs by $300 million, he wrote in a Sept. 16 re­sponse to DiNapoli’s of­fice.

But Madison said that the agency should review its policies on discretion­ary spending.“We agree with your audit recommendations that the authority exam­ine its written policies and procedures to deter­mine if adequate guid­ance is provided regard­ing discretionary spend­ing,” Madison wrote.

The Thruway has been criticized for its fiscal policies in recent years after it increased tolls several times to make up for growing costs and stagnant reve­nue.

There’s a possibility that the Thruway may seek a toll increase in 2015, and it has also yet to detail all the funding to pay for a new, $3.9 bil­lion Tappan Zee Bridge over the Hudson River between Westchester and Rockland counties.

A December analysis by a consultant to the Thruway Authority esti­mated the 570-mile-long Thruway’s revenue will be $67.2 million short of its needs[total BS, they spend the thruway money on other things and now are scrambling!On the TAXPAYERS BACK!] in 2015 under the current toll struc­ture, with deficits grow­ing in future years.

JSPECTOR www.twitter.com/gannettalbany

Cuomo to go on bus tour, tailed by foes

Joseph Spector

Albany Bureau Chief

ALBANY — Gov. An­drew Cuomo and running mate Kathy Hochul will visit three upstate cities Saturday on the “Women’s Equality Express,” a bus tour to highlight their sup­port of a 10-point women’s rights agenda. Republican gubernato­rial candidate Rob Astori­no’s campaign said it won’t be far behind. It will have the “Shelly Silver Express” to knock Cuomo for not calling for the res­ignation of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, D-Manhattan, who has been criticized for the handling of sexual harass­ment cases in the cham­ber.

Cuomo’s bus tour starts Saturday morning in Albany, heads to Syra­cuse and then concludes at 4 p.m. in Rochester at the United Workers Hall, 750 East Ave. “This rally will be a great opportunity for our community to come out and demonstrate our strong support of Gover­nor Cuomo and the Wom­en’s Equality Agenda,” Assembly Majority Lead­er Joseph Morelle, D-Irondequoit, said in an email to supporters Thursday afternoon.

Cuomo, a Democrat, has done little campaign­ing in advance of Election Day, Nov. 4, but he’s ex­pected to ramp up his ef­forts in the coming weeks.

“We’re going to be do­ing these bus tours quite often between now and the end of the election,” Cuomo said Friday on The Capitol Pressroom, a pub­lic radio show.

He has also offered few details about his plat­form for a second term, focusing largely on his record since he took of­fice in 2011.

Cuomo said he would be rolling out more policy positions before Election Day, saying he’s started to do some. He’s talked about various ways the state could use a $4 billion windfall from bank settle­ments, increased the state’s goal for minority ­owned business and on Thursday announced new policies to address sexual abuse on SUNY campus­es.

In 2010, Cuomo put out 10 policy books about his plans if elected. “I think if you look at these events as we’ve been going on, we are ar­ticulating the policy goals of the next administration — one at a time,” Cuomo told reporters Thursday. “Have we put out the book like we did in the first campaign? No. Because I learned a little bit: No­body ever read the book.”

Cuomo held a com­manding 29 percentage ­point lead over Astorino[in NYC], the Westchester County executive, a Siena College poll last week showed.

On Friday, Astorino showed little money in his campaign account to air ads against Cuomo in the final weeks of the race.

He had nearly $1.3 mil­lion in the bank after spending $2.6 million on campaign expenses since July, mainly on his first ad last month. Cuomo had $35 million in his coffers in July and had nearly $26 million left last month.

Cuomo introduced the 10-point Women’s Equali­ty Agenda in January 2013, but it has stalled in the Senate, where Repub­licans have balked at a provision that would strengthen abortion rights in New York. Democrats and Cuomo are seeking to capitalize on the issue during the campaign in a state with twice as many Democrats than Republicans, and Cu­omo has a line on the bal­lot for a “Women’s Equal­ity Party.”[is Soros buying this line for you Cuomo?]

Astorino, who is pro­life, has knocked the abor­tion piece of the agenda, saying it would lead to an expansion of abortion in New York. He charged Friday that it’s hypocriti­cal of Cuomo to promote women’s rights when he didn’t call for Silver’s ouster amid a number of sexual harassment com­plaints against Assembly Democrats.

Green Party candidate Howie Hawkins said he’ll hold his own event when Cuomo comes to Syracuse and “offer to give Cuomo a pedal-powered tour of his Syracuse neighbor­hood to see firsthand how Cuomo’s policies are exas­perating inequality.

The Republicans’ van will have a sign that reads: “Ask Andrew Cuomo why he let Sheldon Silver off the hook in Albany sex as­sault scandals.”

In 2012, Silver quietly settled two sexual harass­ment complaints against disgraced Assemblyman Vito Lopez, D-Brooklyn, for about $103,000. In Jan­uary, Assemblyman Den­nis Gabryszak, D-Cheek­towaga, Erie County, re­signed amid sexual ha­rassment charges.[taxpayer money used to pay for this!]

Republicans, including Astorino, called for Sil­ver’s ouster, but Cuomo never turned on Silver, saying in April 2013, “It is wholly up to the legisla­tive bodies to select a leader.” Silver has since imple­mented new policies.

“Sheldon Silver sur­vived as speaker because Andrew Cuomo protected him,”
Astorino said in a statement. “Mr. Cuomo showed zero regard for the victims of these sex crimes.” Cuomo’s bus tour comes on the same day as Yom Kippur, the Jewish holiday. Cuomo said there would be other opportuni­ties to participate in his events before Election Day. “I am highly respectful and wish everyone who’s celebrating a joyous holi­day, and people who can’t come because of the holi­day, I totally understand that,” Cuomo said in the radio interview.

JSPECTOR Twitter.com/gannettalbany

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