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Louis Ciminelli, now facing corruption charges, is no stranger to controversy

Louis P. Ciminelli, facing charges in a sweeping public corruption probe, built LPCiminelli into one of the Buffalo Niagara region’s biggest contractors, but the politically connected executive is no stranger to controversy.

Under Ciminelli, the company has a history of winning state contracts during the administrations of many governors, both Republican and Democrat. One of the biggest was the contract to build the SolarCity solar panel factory in South Buffalo. The company also was the contractor on the $1.3 billion project to rebuild Buffalo’s schools.

LPCiminelli also is the general contractor for the $375 million University at Buffalo’s Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences building, now being built on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus. LPCiminelli also was construction manager for UB’s Clinical and Translational Research Center.

Those lucrative projects helped turn LPCiminelli into one of the nation’s 150-biggest contractors and gave the company the size to push into markets beyond the Buffalo Niagara region, not only in upstate New York but also in the East Coast and the Midwest. The company, which has its headquarters on Main Street in Buffalo, has more than 200 employees.

Along the way, Ciminelli has been an active political and civic donor.

He contributed $96,500 during Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s last two campaigns, including $25,000 three weeks before his firm secured the construction job at the SolarCity project at RiverBend. An entity connected to Ciminelli, Highland Park Village, donated $25,000 to Cuomo on May 29, 2014, several months after LPCiminelli got the RiverBend contract.

[RELATED: A guide to political corruption probes in New York State]

LPCiminelli’s work on the $1.3 billion reconstruction project of Buffalo schools also has spurred controversy. The school district has filed a lawsuit over the question of how much LPCiminelli profited from the school reconstruction project. A Buffalo News analysis last year estimated, based on documents available at the time, that the company’s profit could have amounted to $400 million. That would be at least triple what is typical in the industry, though the company also did the work under a contractual arrangement that shifted much of the financial risk from potential cost overruns in the project to LPCiminelli.

Under Republican Gov. George Pataki, Ciminelli served as chairman of the New York Power Authority, an influential entity that manages the Niagara Power Project and other key power plants and also provides millions in low-cost electricity to businesses statewide under a variety of incentive programs.

Two other LPCiminelli executives also will face charges.

Kevin Schuler, who handle’s LPCiminelli’s government affairs and community relations, is a former vice president of government relations at the Buffalo Niagara Partnership, the region’s primary business advocacy group. At LPCiminelli, Schuler’s role made him “intimately involved in how public sector decisions and perceptions impact LPCiminelli and its clients,” according to the company’s website.

Michael Laipple, as president of the company’s LPCiminelli Solutions project financing arm, is responsible for managing the financing for LPCiminelli’s projects, including the school reconstruction project.

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