An Open Letter to the New York State Attorney General

September 15, 2017

Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman
Office of the Attorney General
The Capitol
Albany, NY 12224-0341

Dear AG Schneiderman,

We wish to make a formal complaint alleging corruption associated with the Niagara Falls State Park Landscape Improvements plan.

A Spring, 2014 offer for bids was put out, requiring contractors to buy granite from Champlain Stone, a Saratoga Springs/Albany area company with quarries in the Adirondacks, for installation as pavers in the park.

The granite requirement was mandated by the LA Group of Saratoga Springs, a consultant/landscape architect for the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (State Parks).

A request for sealed bids released by State Parks, opened on April 29, 2014, was for “improvements” to the Plaza Area at the Cave of the Winds section of Goat Island in the park. The specifications required contractors to use “Corinthian Granite,” a product exclusively manufactured by Champlain Stone.

While the bid specifications allowed contractors to use an “approved equivalent” approved by the project manager for the state and the design team from Saratoga Springs, there is no known equivalent to this highly specific granite.

Local State Park landscape architects were passed over for all aspects of the $50 million park improvement work, replaced by Albany-based State Parks landscape architects headed by Stephen McCorkell, RLA, of Saratoga Springs.

He was working closely with the LA Group of Saratoga Springs, the outside landscape architects for the project.

As you are aware, because they provide professional services, consultants such as the LA Group do not submit to competitive bidding but are selected by the project manager, who we believe to have been Mr. McCorkell.

The company selected to design the specs has on their staff a senior landscape architect, Lisa L. Tonneson-McCorkell, RLA, of Saratoga Springs.

In summary, Stephen McCorkell was the project director for State Parks. State Parks selected his wife Lisa’s company from Saratoga to design the specs that required contractors to buy granite from Champlain Stone (also from Saratoga) for the Niagara Falls State Park.

Public Officers Law 73, Section 15 states that “No statewide elected official, state officer or employee, member of the legislature or  legislative employee shall: (a) participate in any state contracting  decision involving the payment of more than one thousand dollars to that individual, any relative of that individual, or any entity in which that individual or any relative has a financial interest;”

Indeed, all individuals in charge of the Niagara Falls State Park “Landscape Improvements” plan at that time, including the lead man for the LA Group, David Miller, State Parks Deputy Commissioner Frank McCue and the team of McCorkell and McCorkell are from the Albany/Saratoga area.

The $4 million Prospect Point improvement plan for Niagara Falls State Park included $600,000 in granite stone pavers purchased from Champlain Stone. Prospective contractors knew in advance, from looking at the specs, that the granite was to be purchased from Champlain Stone, despite New York State Finance Law 163 that prohibits sole source bidding.

The “tweaking” of specs to ensure the selection of the Champlain Stone granite is reminiscent of the similar requirement that the contractor chosen to build Solar City as part of the Buffalo Billion initiative – Ciminelli Construction – was the only company based in the Buffalo area that met the requirement, “over 50 years of proven experience and successful track record in the construction and operation of mixed-use facilities and buildings.”

Champlain Stone charged contractors around $60 per square foot, far above the normal market price for granite of $20-$40 per square foot.

At least one employee of Champlain Stone who is in their Corporate Media Relations office in Saratoga Springs, Kirsten Anthony, was also previously employed by the LA Group. Her father, Jeffrey Anthony was an owner of LA Group in and around the time of these events.

The entire alleged conspiracy to defraud the taxpayers of New York State is detailed in back issues of our newspaper, available at NiagaraFallsReporter.com.

Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,

Staff, Niagara Falls Reporter

cc: Senator Rich Funke, Chairman, Standing Committee on Cultural Affairs, Tourism, Parks and Recreation Funke@nysenate.gov

Assemblyman Daniel J. O’Donnell, Chairman, Standing Committee on Tourism, Parks, Arts and Sports Development, odonnelld@nyassembly.gov

NYS Joint Commission on Public Ethics jcope@jcope.ny.gov

Reinvent Albany info@reinventalbany.org

Common Cause New York NYOffice@commoncause.org

League of Women Voters New York  lwvny@lwvny.org

Citizens Union citizen@citizensunion.org

New York Public Interest Research Group nypirg@nypirg.org


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