The general counsel for New York State Sen. Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) brokered a meeting between the state Department of Health and a company employing the senator’s son without disclosing that link, a witness said.
James Clancy, a former deputy state Health Department commissioner who was at the meeting, said Elizabeth Garvey, one of the senator’s top attorneys, first contacted him about setting up a sit-down between AbTech Industries and agency staffers who were reviewing the environmental health impacts of fracking before it was banned in New York last year, Clancy testified Wednesday at the senator and son’s corruption trial at Manhattan federal court.
“Find it curious that [state] senate Republican is reaching out to me directly,” Clancy wrote in an email to his colleagues and members of the governor’s staff on Jan. 28, 2014, according to court testimony. Concerned with the potentially controversial nature of the request, the next day he also forwarded the lawyer’s email to another one of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s aides, adding: “This is a biggie.”
Arizona-based AbTech is one of three companies that the former state Senate Majority Leader allegedly coerced $300,000 from in the form of no-show jobs for his son, Adam, in exchange for illegally manipulating legislation. Both men deny the accusations.
Clancy said he told Garvey, counsel to the state senate’s GOP majority, which Skelos led at the time, that Clancy would talk to his department colleagues and find out if such a meeting was “deemed to be appropriate.” After a back and forth, AbTech got the meeting on May 2, 2014, when company representatives pitched their product’s ability to filter fracking waste water. The issue was important because one of the issues being debated in Albany was whether fracking waste water would be trucked from well sites—clogging upstate roads with countless big rigs—or recycled on-site using filters such as AbTech’s. Late last year, Cuomo decided to ban fracking.
Sen. Skelos’ defense attorney, Robert Gage, asked Clancy about another email that the deputy commissioner had sent to his colleagues in which he said it “sounded legit” and “I’m feeling OK about it.” Gage also asked “if anything inappropriate had occurred” in the meeting—such as AbTech’s representatives asking about fracking regulations or asking for a permit—and whether that would have triggered Clancy to “shut it down.” Clancy said yes, but the hour-long meeting ended without issue.
Prosecutors subsequently asked Clancy if he knew how Skelos’ general counsel had found out about AbTech. Clancy said he didn’t know. Prosecutors also followed up to ask if Clancy knew that the senator’s son stood to potentially make money off AbTech’s fracking waste-water filters, if such drilling were legalized in the state and if AbTech secured those contracts. Again, Clancy said he didn’t.
After Clancy testified, Kelly Ann Cummings, the spokeswoman for the state senate’s GOP majority, took the stand, but questions didn’t get beyond the biographical before the judge adjourned the case for the day. Her testimony is scheduled to continue Thursday.