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Cutler, longtime Democratic aide, subpoenaed in Buffalo Billion probe

ALBANY – A longtime Democratic Party insider in Erie County says he has been subpoenaed by federal prosecutors looking into the expanding Buffalo Billion economic development investigation.

“I’ve been contacted by the U.S. Attorney and I intend to cooperate fully,” Peter Cutler told The Buffalo News. Cutler recently left the administration of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to become head of communications for Erie County Medical Center.

Cutler was among current and former Cuomo aides whom the New York Post on Monday said prosecutors have subpoenaed in an effort to learn about actions taken by the Governor’s Office regarding firms associated with the Buffalo Billion and an expanding probe of two longtime Cuomo advisers, Joseph Percoco and Todd Howe.

Cutler, in a brief telephone interview Monday afternoon, would not provide any details about what U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara is seeking from him.

Cutler is a longtime government player on the state and local level. He served as communications chief for Buffalo Mayor Byron W. Brown and former Mayor Anthony M. Masiello. He also worked in the administration of the late Gov. Mario M. Cuomo, and ran a variety of tasks for Andrew Cuomo, including Buffalo Billion-related matters.

The awarding of contracts to firms involved with the projects associated with Cuomo’s Buffalo Billion program has been under investigation for about a year. It has accelerated in recent weeks with a new round of subpoenas going out to firms and individuals connected with the Buffalo Billion and other economic development projects in upstate.

Cutler’s role in the Buffalo Billion projects appeared to increase when he moved from Albany back to Buffalo several years ago. His job included handling media affairs in relation to Cuomo’s signature Buffalo Billion program, which includes the RiverBend development that will house SolarCity’s manufacturing facility.

In 2015, he was listed on the state Urban Development Corp.’s payroll at $112,200 annually with title of director of communications and special projects, according to records furnished by the state Comptroller’s Office.

Cutler, one of a number of insiders whose career has spanned two different Cuomo administrations, once worked in the scheduling office of Mario Cuomo. He joined Andrew Cuomo’s administration in March 2011 as a spokesman for the state corrections department, a post that had him defending and promoting Cuomo’s plans to close upstate prisons. For Cuomo, he also did press duties on homeland security issues, including Superstorm Sandy.

Cutler was among the most trusted members of Brown’s inner circle. He worked on Brown’s first mayoral campaign in 2005.

His wife, Elizabeth Ball, is Brown’s deputy mayor; previously, she worked in Cuomo’s office as his legislative affairs director.

Cutler served as a spokesman on some Buffalo Billion matters, and he was considered a trusted Cuomo soldier.

After serving in Masiello’s administration, Cutler spent time with two public relations firms in Buffalo, Eric Mower + Associates and Travers Collins.