CARMEL, NY - On Monday, Yorktown Supervisor Matt Slater joined state and county officials to call on New York State's Attorney General Letitia James to open an investigation into the potential pay-to-play scandal involving the state's purchse of COVID test kits. In December 2021, the state purchased COVID-19 testing kits from Digital Gadgets at an average price of $12.25 per kit. In total, Digital Gadgets received $637 million from the New York State Department of Health for the sale of approximately 52 million test kits. During the months that followed the contract, the CEO of Digital Gadgets, Charlie Tebele, hosted an in-person fundraiser for the Governor. He and his family have donated nearly $330,000 to Governor Hochul’s campaign. Numerous news outlets have covered this story since it was first reported by the Albany Times Union.
Yorktown Supervisor Matt Slater said, "I find it astonishing that my Town was able to get a better deal for COVID-19 test kits, at the exact same time, than the State of New York. We paid 25% less for a small fraction of the number of tests purchased by New York State. It makes no sense and raises serious questions about this incredibly bad deal for New York State taxpayers."
New York State Assemblyman Kevin Byrne said, “This seems to be yet another all-too-common example of ‘pay-to-play’ politics in Albany’s culture of corruption. It must be investigated. Our Attorney General, Letitia James, recently spoke at a local political function in Putnam County where she highlighted the division in our country and implored those seeking elected office to ‘seek truth to power.’ She now has an opportunity to show strength, to heal the divide and to ‘seek truth to power’ by investigating the corruption in her own backyard. Instead, she recently filed a 220-page civil lawsuit against the 45th President of the United States who doesn’t even live in New York anymore. AG James, you have an opportunity to lead, to combat corruption and to ensure New York’s taxpayers are not abused by corrupt shady deals. Take it.”
New York State Assemblyman Mike Lawler added, “Andrew Cuomo was arguably the most corrupt Governor in the history of the State of New York, was embroiled in multiple ‘pay-to-play’ scandals, and I thought that New York might have turned the page but unfortunately that is not what happened. In just over a year’s time, Kathy Hochul has raised nearly $50 million in campaign contributions and is driven by the very ‘pay-to-play’ culture that she learned from Andrew Cuomo. This example, which has been brought to light by the Times Union, of paying over $600 million for COVID-19 test kits in exchange for $330,000 in campaign contributions is absolutely criminal.”
Assemblyman Lawler sponsored a bill during the 2021-22 Legislative Session, bill number A.8219/S.5326, that would amend the state finance law to ensure appropriate oversight of state contracts are kept in place during state disaster emergencies. Slater pledged to reintroduce the same legislation next year.
Mahopac School Board Trustee Tanner McCracken stated, “The facts here are deeply concerning - at best, this is bad governance and abuse of millions of taxpayer dollars; at worst, this is unforgivable corruption. For the Governor to use school districts as an excuse for her deal to buy COVID tests for double what California paid is disrespectful to our students, parents, and school district taxpayers. We want our kids in the classroom to feel a sense of pride and responsibility as American citizens. But right now, with this latest scandal in Albany, our students sadly have no leadership in the Governor's office they can look up to. We must restore ethics to public service.”
Erin Lee Crowley, candidate for Putnam County Legislature District 9 said, “As a mother of four, I find it unacceptable to use children and families who are suffering financially as political pawns in Governor Hochul’s ‘pay-to-play’ scheme. We are facing record inflation which is causing a migratory effect on our great state. Checks and balances must be upheld in Albany as the Governor’s promises of transparency have clearly been forgotten.”
Greg Ellner, candidate for Putnam County Legislature District 5 said, “Everyone despises wasteful government spending. In Putnam, we are a small county and when you look at this specific instance, the amount of money wasted by the governor exceeds the entire operating budget of Putnam County. We the people are hurting – we have to find ways to initiate relief through our taxes, and this definitely is not one of them.”
Abby O'Brien, Vice-Chair of the Putnam County Mom's for Liberty added, “We advocate for parental rights at all levels of government. Over the last few years, parents have seen and felt the continuous overstepping of our rights to make important decisions for our children. We have lost all trust. Now, we have come to find out that there has been even more deceit – a potential ‘pay-to-play’ scheme disguised as what was so needed to get our children back into school after the pandemic. These are our children, and they are not to be used to make a profit.”