LPCiminelli, the Buffalo-based contractor that is overseeing construction of the SolarCity solar panel factory in South Buffalo, has hired an Albany lobbyist to represent its interests in the Capitol on contracting issues like the state’s Scaffold Law, and not its role in the SolarCity construction project or the Buffalo schools reconstruction effort, a spokesman said.
“We put them on for general contracting issues, like the Scaffold Law,” said Kevin Schuler, an LPCiminelli spokesman. “It has nothing to do with SolarCity, nothing to do with the schools.”
LPCiminelli earlier this month hired Whiteman Osterman & Hanna, an Albany lobbying firm, “to provide legislative and regulatory counsel” through the end of this year, according to a filing with a state ethics panel. Schuler said it has worked with the firm in the past on some strategic consulting work.
Contractors and upstate business groups have long sought reforms to the state’s Scaffold Law, which holds contractors automatically liable if a worker falls from a height, even if the worker contributed to the fall. Critics of the law say it drives up construction costs in New York, but efforts to change the law have made little headway in Albany.
LPCiminelli agreed on March 10 to pay the lobbying firm a $55,000 retainer, payable in equal installments of $5,500 through December, according to the filing with the state’s Joint Commission on Public Ethics. Whiteman Osterman’s lobbying is expected to focus on construction management and general contracting, along with design-build and related issues, the filing said.
U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara Bharara since last spring or early summer has been investigating the Buffalo Billion program and whether campaign donations or other political considerations were a part of the awarding of the initiative’s massive contracts.
One program under review is the $900 million RiverBend project, where LPCiminelli won a contract to oversee construction of what will be the largest solar panel factory in North America. Subpoenas were issued last year to LPCiminelli, as well as McGuire Development, another Buffalo developer involved in Buffalo Billion construction projects, along with Empire State Development and SUNY Polytechnic, the state college that is part of running the Buffalo Billion program.