The New York State Assembly and Senate have passed legislation authorizing Monroe County government to move forward with disbanding three local development corporations that had been established to manage local public projects. This legislation permits Monroe County to shut down these LDCs, an action that is long overdue. Two of the LDCs created by Monroe County, Upstate Telecommunication Systems and Monroe Security and Safety Systems, became front page news this year, the focus of the bid-rigging scandal. There were indictments. There were trials. There were four guilty pleas and a prison sentence handed down to the worst of the offenders.
Prior to being elected to this body, I served as the Democratic Leader of the Monroe County Legislature and know firsthand the grave concerns my then colleagues and I voiced about the use of local development corporations to manage government work. We raised concerns of transparency, contract bidding and accountability. In September, 2010 I sent a letter to the New York State Authority Budget Office requesting a formal investigation of Monroe Security and Safety Systems Local Development Corporation (M3S) and their primary contractor, Navitech Services Corporation, as provided under Public Authorities Accountability law. This letter, signed by all of my Democratic colleagues in the Monroe County Legislature, included concern that M3S was established under false pretenses; that its contract awarding process was flawed; its use of subcontractors was being used to avoid transparency of procurement practices; and violations related to incorporation, reporting and disclosure violations.
Those that called for the use of LDCs as contract managers tried to sell the concept as a cost-savings model. We questioned that proposition then and it was warranted. Any promised taxpayer savings was never realized. My colleagues and I warned that LDCs were a bad idea and were shielded from sufficient public oversight. We were suspicious about a proposed shift of governmental functions to an LDC. The M3S contract for public safety communications services was to cost roughly $224 million spanning 20 years. The lack of transparency was astounding and negligent. Citizens lost oversight of their tax dollars and whether services are being appropriately provided.
Although it has been years in the making, eliminating the use of these local development corporations is a victory for Monroe County taxpayers. The convictions of those involved with bid rigging, the unfound cost savings, the public concern, the local support to dismantle the LDCs all demonstrate that the initial concerns we raised seven years ago were very real. I am relieved that as a state legislator, I have been able to put an end to a wrong, and remind Monroe County leaders that transparency of government, fairness and wise fiscal management are basic principles of the public service.