HV Lawmaker Drafts Bill To Require Online Posting Of State Contracts

Mar 24, 2014

Credit WAMC Photo

A New York state assemblyman from the Hudson Valley is putting together legislation to require New York State to publish state contracts online. The soon-to-be introduced legislation is in response to state deals with IBM.

An agreement between IBM and the SUNY College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering in Albany to maintain 3,100 high-tech jobs in New York, including in the Hudson Valley, through at least 2016, was signed in June 2013. Another deal to have IBM bring 500 jobs to the Buffalo Information Technologies Innovation and Commercialization Hub, which is in the works and will be state-owned, came in September 2013. Governor Andrew Cuomo made the announcement regarding both February 24. Fishkill Republican Assemblyman Kieran Lalor calls the timing suspect.

“The only reason for that is a political calculation and, frankly, to deceive the people of New York,” says Lalor. “Those deals have nothing to do with what IBM was doing in February. IBM was laying off around the country in February because that was what they were doing. These six-month- and eight-month-old contracts between New York State and IBM had nothing to do with that. Cuomo announced them at that time to make it appear and to deceive the people of New York into thinking that those contracts had something to do with sparing New York layoffs. And they really didn’t.”

Cuomo’s February 24 announcement came just days before IBM announced wide-ranging layoffs, including in Vermont. A spokesman for the governor refutes the accusation that the timing was politically calculated. In an e-mailed statement, he says, quote, “The job agreement was contingent on the NANO deal in Buffalo. The Buffalo agreement was signed in September, but had to be approved by IBM’s board. The announcement was made when the deal was final.” End quote.

Lalor does not buy that explanation. He has been drafting a bill he says should be ready this week that would require New York State to publish its contracts online within one week of the state entering into a contract. The legislation would place the same requirement on the state's various independent authorities, economic development organizations, and public university foundations. He says he cannot think of any type of contract that should be exempt, and no contract is too small.

“We have our district office here locally; that’s a contract between the landlord and the State of New York. Should that contract be online, something kind of small like that? And we said, yeah, that probably should be,” Lalor says. “People should know who has a state contract. Ninety-nine out of 100 or 999 out of 1,000 there’s going to be nothing there, but there could be other facts worth knowing and information worth knowing and dots you could connect by knowing that.”

The Cuomo spokesman declined to comment on Lalor’s upcoming legislation, saying the administration reviews legislation once it is introduced. Lalor says he’s been pitching his idea to fellow lawmakers, and says some are receptive, but are not yet supporting the bill as it is still being drafted. Lalor says he does not see his legislation costing either time or money.

“There’s 1,000 steps to get you through the execution of a contract,” says Lalor. “We’re saying, take one more very small, quick step in the name of transparency.”

Lalor last week brought his plans for the legislation to light during Sunshine Week — a national initiative to highlight the importance of open government and freedom of information. Lalor’s district includes East Fishkill, where IBM has a semiconductor plant. In June 2013, there were 697 reported layoffs combined in IBM’s Poughkeepsie and East Fishkill complexes.