Morning Read: Years after Sen. Ron Stafford’s passing, Kay Stafford draws scrutiny

This morning, the Albany Times-Union reports on a detailed investigation by the state Comptroller’s office into alleged mismanagement and corruption at the state’s Office for Technology.

The report details behavior by OFT that amounts to bribery and nepotism.

It also describes a complicated arrangement involving Kay Stafford, widow of  the North Country’s legendary state Sen. Ron Stafford.

The Times-Union article recounts how OFT “set up an unfair bidding process that resulted in CMA Consulting Services being inserted into a deal between OFT and Computer Associates Inc…”

Latham-based CMA has deep political connections: Kay Stafford, its president, is the widow of Republican state Sen. Ron Stafford. During the period in question, former Senate Majority Leader Joseph L. Bruno had just come aboard as the firm’s CEO.

Eventually, the three-way deal between OFT, CMA and Computer Associates ran aground, causing the state to terminate the contract “for cause,” a determination with potentially serious consequences for both firms. But in an arrangement that the comptroller determined at the time to be questionable, OFT offered to drop the “for cause” determination in exchange for a credit of $350,000.

Computer Associates employees described feeling “held hostage” by OFT’s terms, which the agency pursued despite telling the comptroller’s office it had dropped the idea. It eventually provided OFT with $222,743 in credits. CMA’s management refused to pay a similar sum.

This isn’t the first time that Kay Stafford has faced media questions about her company’s ties.  In 2009, when former Senate Majority leader Joe Bruno was facing Federal charges, the New York Times profiled her.

She hired [Bruno] as CMA’s chief executive in the summer of 2008 after he retired from the Senate amid a federal corruption investigation. She kept Mr. Bruno on even after he was indicted on eight felony counts earlier this year. And she has been his constant companion at the most difficult time in his public life.

In 2009, the New York Observer also noted that Kay Stafford continued to wield Ron Stafford’s political funds, distributing roughly $60,000 to candidates and charities that year.

“I’ve never heard of ghost contributions before, but I guess it applies,” said Blair Horner, NYPIRG’s chief lobbyist for government reform at the Capitol. “This clearly underscores that there needs to be a law that you have to give the money back.”

That year, the Albany Times-Union cited Stafford fund’s continuing political donations as a concern in a lead editorial.

Not to fault Ms. Stafford’s charitable contributions, but that’s a lot of good will she can buy for herself and her company, CMA Consulting Services, which is registered to do lobbying work. It can’t even remotely be argued that Mr. Stafford’s campaign fund exists for its original purpose — to finance his re-election campaigns.

The former Senator passed away in 2005, but one of his campaign funds still has more than $27,000, according to filings completed in 2012.

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17 Comments on “Morning Read: Years after Sen. Ron Stafford’s passing, Kay Stafford draws scrutiny”

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  1. John Warren says:

    What we need is a real investigation into former Senator Stafford. This criminal streak is probably not something created by Kay Stafford in 2005, but goes back decades and is more firmly rooted in her husband and his connections with the already convicted Joe Bruno (who was from Glens Falls).

    Given the local media environment of the last 40 years, one has to wonder if there has ever been a local news story critical of Stafford, let alone any investigation whatsoever of his connections to the corruption that has run rampant in the State Legislature during and since his tenure there.

  2. Two Cents says:

    Computer Associates has been mismanaged for years. they have just fired their Exec V.P. and General Manager, Dave Dobson, and are amidst their annual “re-org”.
    Employees are being laid off in droves for the past couple of months.

    Computer Associates has troubled history with SEC.
    I’m thinking nobody in this 3-way is clean
    Bruno is the new Alphonse D’Mato.

  3. PNElba says:

    So politicians and members of their families are involved in nefarious business deals? Call me shocked.

  4. Paul says:

    “already convicted Joe Bruno”

    John, wasn’t his conviction thrown out on appeal last fall?

  5. Paul says:

    Brian, this is a complicated story, can you help me with what it is that she has done that is illegal?

  6. PNElba says:

    Paul, I don’t see where anyone has accused Kay Stafford of anything illegal. But you do have to question what is behind a company (CMA), owned by a woman with political ties, being “inserted” into a deal between OFT and Computer Associates. As far as I can tell, it looks like only people in OFT are in hot water

  7. Tony Hall says:

    John, your use of the word “criminal” in connection with Senator Stafford is irresponsible, not to say slanderous.

  8. Brian Mann says:

    Paul – I don’t see any allegations of illegal behavior in the Comptroller’s report relating to Stafford’s company.

    –Brian, NCPR

  9. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    Unfortunately that is the problem with our system. Individuals who are elected as representatives of the People end up with knowledge and connections that give them enormous advantages in the marketplace.

    It is often a fine line between what is legal, what is ethical, and what is criminal. And if you write the laws you have a great advantage on that too.

  10. Paul says:

    Brain, thanks perhaps I was confused by John’s assertion that there was some kind of “criminal steak” going on.

  11. Paul says:

    There isn’t any “fine line” between “legal” and “criminal”. Either it is one or the other. Ethical yes, that is different.

  12. John Warren says:

    Paul – surely you are joking. Anyone who doesn’t see a criminal streak going on in the state legislature is not paying attention. It’s not just a matter of ethics as any of the legislators now or recently serving time could tell you. The place has been rife with actual crime, including convictions – what we deserve to know is if our elected officials (former and current) are, or have been, involved in this rampant corruption. This story, while not proving that the Staffords were involved in a crime, suggests that it’s worth a look by our local professional media – or more to the point – it should have been looked at already! As far as I know, Joe Bruno was convicted on a number of counts, but I think only the most serious were overturned. I could be wrong. Not that it matters, there are plenty of other convict state legislators – if that many convicts moved into a single house in your town, I’ll bet there would be an uproar.

  13. Paul says:

    John, I was referring to this matter not the legislature.

    “Not that it matters” . I think it does matter at least for the question I asked. I was just asking about him.

    “This story, while not proving that the Staffords were involved in a crime”. That was my point. Yes, perhaps it should be looked into further.

  14. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    Maybe “murky line” is a better phrase because if the line were clear we would need far fewer lawyers. Or maybe it’s a chicken and egg question maybe it was a clear line before there were so many lawyers.

  15. Paul says:

    knuck, perhaps we should go back to the old system of medieval barbers. If Jo Bruno sinks he is innocent if he floats he is guilty! Did you ever see that SNL skit with Steve Martin?

  16. oa says:

    Theodoric of York should investigate!

  17. mervel says:

    From an economic point of view it makes no sense to spend relatively large sums of money to get elected to state office which pays pretty low and has some pressure.

    However the lifetime incomes of those who get elected to the NYS senate or house take a substantial jump; thus the interest in paying a lot of money to seek these positions.

    Our schools are laying of classroom teachers yet there is plenty of money to pay for all of these ‘consultants” in Albany and hire all of our ex-senators for posts in Albany.

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