Attorney General Cuomo Launches Wide-ranging Investigation Into Patronage, Cronyism And Waste Of Taxpayer Money At The New York State Fair

 

SYRACUSE, NY (August 31, 2010) - Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo today announced a wide-ranging investigation into patronage, cronyism and waste of taxpayer money at the New York State Fair.

Today, the Attorney General’s office issued subpoenas to several contractors and other related entities, and sent document requests to relevant state agencies as part of a civil investigation into the Fair. Last night, the Attorney General obtained a referral from the Governor to conduct this investigation under Executive Law § 63(8).

Separately, the Attorney General’s Office is conducting a parallel criminal probe of a former State Fair director following a report and referral by State Inspector General Joseph Fisch.

“The State Fair is a celebration of our shared heritage and culture that is critical to the Upstate economy and enjoyed by people across the State. The Fair is a source of pride for all New Yorkers and we must protect it,” said Attorney General Cuomo. “Our actions are aimed at ending systemic problems that have created a culture of patronage and cronyism at the expense of taxpayers.”

The State Fair has long been plagued by allegations that it has become a patronage playground for friends, relatives and cronies of the Fair’s directors and managers. The Attorney General’s investigation will assess the integrity of ticketing, contracting, hiring, and other management and financial practices involving the Fair.

In early August, State Inspector General Fisch issued a report alleging specific acts of mismanagement under former State Fair Director Peter Cappuccilli, Jr., including the squandering of approximately $860,000 in state funds, of which nearly $78,000 were for Cappuccilli’s personal use. These allegations include:

  • Using state funds for lavish parties, holiday cards, and his daughter’s wedding
  • Hundreds of free tickets given to members of the State Police, and others

The Report also alleged more than $829,000 in payroll hires of friends and relatives, and the falsification and removal of official records to cover-up misconduct. The complete report is available at: www.ig.state.ny.us

As part of the Attorney General’s investigation, subpoenas were issued to:

  • Carolina Hurricanes
  • Catering with a Flair
  • Clear Channel Radio
  • Latorra, Paul and McCann Advertising
  • Progressive Expert Consulting

Document requests were sent to:

  • NYS Department of Agriculture and Markets (including NY State Fair)
  • New York State Police

The New York State Fair is one of the largest and longest running fairs in the country. First held in Syracuse in 1841, the Fair is housed on 365 acres of state-owned property commonly known as the Fairgrounds. The complex includes 20 major exhibit buildings and more than 100 other structures. The fair runs for 12 days in August and September, draws nearly one million visitors, and has annual revenues exceeding $16 million.

The Fairgrounds hosts events year-round, including banquet facilities, trade shows, equestrian competitions, and other cultural events. By law, oversight of the fair is conducted by the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets.

The investigation is being handled by Deputy Chief of the Public Integrity Bureau Stacy Aronowitz and Assistant Attorneys General John Carroll, Lauren Ellis and James Weir, under Special Deputy Attorney General for Public Integrity Ellen Biben and Special Counsel to the Attorney General Linda A. Lacewell.

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