Governor Andrew Cuomo fielded questions for the first time Monday about alleged interference with the Moreland Commission, an ethics panel he created in July 2013 and shut down earlier this year.
Cuomo, speaking to a large assembly of media Monday morning following a jobs announcement at the University at Buffalo's South Campus, admitted there were conversations between his office and commission members.
"Obviously there was going to be a lot of back and forth. They're trying to negotiate a bill. I would have had to sign the bill. I am not going to sign a bill unless they negotiate a bill that I'm happy with," Cuomo said.
"That's fine. That's as it should be. Interference is different."
Cuomo said the purpose of the Moreland Commission was to spur ethics reform. He says the commission deserves credit for helping Albany reach a deal.
The governor had been laying low since a New York Times article last week said a top Cuomo aide pressured commissioners to stop subpoenas to a media-buying firm Cuomo used and to a real estate organization whose members financially supported Cuomo's campaign.
Onondaga County District Attorney William Fitzpatrick, one of the commission's chairmen, said Monday that Cuomo's office never interfered.
"Interference is different. Interference means the commission wasn't independent, their independence was trumped by the second floor. That is false and that is what has been definitely stated over and over and very clearly today," Cuomo said.
Cuomo's Republican challenger in this fall's election, Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, said in Syracuse Monday Cuomo has displayed a "lack of transparency."
"We have seen a a pattern of lies and intimidation from this governor from day one. It was exposed by the New York Times last week and this is getting worse and worse. He is engulfed in scandal. He deserves to tell the people of this state exactly what he knew, what he ordered his staff to do [and] how he directly got involved in interfering with this anti-corruption commission," Astorino said.
The governor said Monday the state does not need "another expensive prosecutor's office."
Cuomo was in Buffalo to announce that eight businesses will expand or locate in Western New York as part of the START-UP NY program, bringing with them 659 jobs. START-UP NY is an initiative that creates tax-free incentive zones near colleges and universities.
The biggest job provider will be a company called Liazon, which provides private online health benefits exchanges for businesses. Liazon plans to create 500 new jobs over the next five years and invest nearly $5 million in an expansion on Scott Street in downtown Buffalo.
Liazon co-founder and CEO Ashok Subramanian says the move allows him to take his company to the next level.
"Our growth has been steady, some might call it spectacular. Seven years, 150 jobs, we feel good about that. But this is a new stratosphere," said Subramanian.
Another company, Bak USA, LLC, which manufactures PC tablets, says it will create 100 new jobs as it sets up its global headquarters at the Compass East building on Michigan Avenue.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this article.