Following in Andrew’s Footsteps by Tom Reynolds
During the COVID-19 state of emergency, the NY Governor’s office and state agencies were given expanded discretion on state expenditures. In an effort to expedite the state’s purchasing and procurement processes during the public health crisis, the Legislature’s and Comptroller’s normal oversight authority was significantly restricted. It appears that Governor Hochul may have abused this relaxed oversight to reward political supporters with taxpayer’s money.
Assembly Minority Leader Will Barclay released the following, (emphasis added) which explains the situation:
“Assembly Republican members of the Oversight, Analysis and Investigation Committee today called on their Democrat counterparts to conduct an immediate inquiry into Governor Hochul’s highly questionable contract with Digital Gadgets, a company owned by a major donor to the governor’s campaign which sold COVID-19 tests to the state.”
“Through a no-bid contract, the Hochul Administration purchased COVID-19 tests from Digital Gadgets for an average of $12.25 per test, when other companies offered the same tests for as little as $5 each. The state of California purchased the same tests for only $6.75 apiece. The decision to pay Digital Gadgets’ higher price forced taxpayers to spend hundreds of millions more than necessary. Recent reports in the Albany Times Union show that the CEO of Digital Gadgets and his family have donated $300,000 to the Hochul campaign and hosted an in-person fundraiser for the governor just a month before the deal was reached.”
“Assembly members Joseph Angelino (R,C,I-Norwich) and Jarett Gandolfo (R,C,I-Sayville) wrote to their Majority colleagues on the Committee, urging the panel to investigate the governor’s actions and waste of taxpayer dollars.”
- The CEO of Digital Gadgets, Charles Tebele and his family members had no prior history of political donations.
- A business associate of the Tebeles, Jack Cayre, and his family members gave $418,000 to the Governor’s re-election effort.
- The Hochul campaign hired a member of the Tebele family on its fundraising staff.
“It is the Legislature’s distinct role to keep the executive branch in check. It appears the Hochul administration took advantage of the relaxed procurement process permitted during the pandemic and awarded an overpriced contract for COVID-19 test kits to a large donor – Digital Gadgets. As Ranking Republican on the Committee on Oversight, Analysis and Investigation, we must not let this go without investigating the matter. These are the kind of scenarios that create distrust in government, and we owe it to the public to do our jobs,” said Angelino.”
“’The Hochul Administration purchased COVID tests from a major campaign donor, paying nearly double the market rate – it looks suspiciously like a kickback scheme using taxpayer dollars,’ Gandolfo said. ‘The governor initially claimed that neither she nor her team knew that the company was supportive of her. However, we now know that the company’s founder held a fundraiser for her just one month before striking this shady deal. The excuses aren’t adding up, and, as Members of the Oversight Committee, we owe it to New Yorkers to uncover the truth.’”
The letter from Angelino and Gandolfo had a couple other interesting facts not in Barclay’s release: