The Orange County Legislature unanimously adopted a resolution at their special meeting last Wednesday that authorizes them to conduct an investigation into the county IDA and the Orange County Funding Corporation.
The resolution enables the legislature to investigate and issue subpoenas to witnesses, the administration of oaths and require the production of books, papers and other evidence necessary or material with respect to the county IDA and the Orange County Funding Corporation.
This decision is in response to the news that three former officials of the county IDA pleaded guilty to felonies in connection with engaging in and concealing prohibited conflicts of interests. Former IDA Managing Director Vincent Cozzolino, 62, of Gardiner, pleaded guilty before Orange County Court Judge Robert Prisco to corrupting the government in the third degree, a class D felony. The IDA’s former Chief Executive Officer Laurie Villasuso, 41, of Newburgh pleaded guilty to corrupting the government in the fourth degree, a class E felony. Edward Diana, 72, of Wallkill, a former member of the IDA’s Board of Directors and a former county executive of Orange County, pleaded guilty to offering a false instrument for filing in the first degree, a class E felony and committing a prohibited conflict of interest.
At the time that they pleaded guilty, Cozzolino and Villasuso each admitted that they had acted in concert with each other in a scheme to defraud the IDA through payments that the IDA made to Cozzolino’s company, Galileo Technology Group, Inc. Villasuso admitted that she had been employed by both the IDA and Galileo Technology Group, Inc. even as she signed contracts on behalf of the IDA with that corporation. Diana admitted being employed by Galileo Technology Group, Inc. while he was an IDA board member and filing a false document to conceal that employment. As a member of the IDA’s Board of Directors, Diana voted on the contracts that the IDA had with Galileo Technology Group, Inc., and chaired the committee which dealt most directly with that company. Collectively, the three defendants have agreed to pay more than $1.2 million to the IDA by the date that they are sentenced as part of their plea agreements.
Mike Anagnostakis, Orange County Legislator for District 17, noted that the legislature launched a similar investigation about eight or nine years ago. Although that instance had tens of millions of dollars in question, as opposed to $1 million, the figure is irrelevant to Anagnostakis.
“Every penny is important when it’s taxpayer dollars,” he said.
District 12 Legislator Kevin Hines agreed with Anagnostakis.
“We are not the oversight of the IDA, that’s the IDA Board,” he said. “But I think we owe this to the taxpayers to do a little investigation here and hopefully help the IDA because I think there’s millions of dollars still missing out of this.”
Katie Bonelli, majority leader and District 5 legislator, was in favor of passing the resolution, as it gives the legislature the opportunity to exercise their due diligence when it comes to wrongdoings and fiscal mismanagement from the organizations they oversee.
Michael Paduch, minority leader and District 19 legislator, noted that launching the investigation is one of the most important bi-partisan issues the legislature could attack. Like Anagnostakis and Hines, Paduch believes that they owe the investigation to the taxpayers.
Steve Brescia, chairman of the legislature, District 9 legislator and former IDA board member, supports the reforms that the new members of the IDA are trying to implement. He also supported the probe.
“I embrace the evidence and the knowledge that we want to bring forth going forward and the legislators want clarity,” he said. “I support it as well.”