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SolarCity, cooperating with federal probe, gets subpoena

SolarCity repeated Thursday that it is cooperating with the federal probe into the awarding of contracts for its new state-financed solar panel factory at RiverBend in South Buffalo.

The company, based in San Mateo, Calif., acknowledged to the Long Island newspaper Newsday that it has received a subpoena from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan seeking information for its expanding inquiry into the awarding of state contracts, including those for the “Buffalo Billion” initiative to transform the Buffalo-area economy.

The Buffalo News reported May 2 that the company was cooperating with the federal prosecutors seeking information from SolarCity. The News quoted a company spokesman stating that SolarCity did not select the contractors for its new factory and is not a focus of the probe.

Company spokeswoman Kady Cooper gave a similar statement for Thursday’s report by Newsday revealing again that SolarCity had received a subpoena: Solar City “is not the subject or focus of the investigation,’’ she said, “as we were not involved in the vendor selection or contracting process.’’

The federal prosecutors are examining whether conflicts of interest and improper lobbying swayed contracts for SolarCity, the largest component of the Buffalo Billion.

In an effort to create nearly 3,000 jobs, the state is spending $750 million to build and equip a $900 million factory that will produce solar panels in Buffalo. The construction contract was awarded to Buffalo-area builder LPCiminelli by the Fort Schuyler Management Corp. a not-for-profit that operates under the State University of New York umbrella.

LPCiminelli received a subpoena months ago and stated at the time that it is not a focus of the investigation.

A lawyer working in the office of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo acknowledged April 28 that the office had received a subpoena as well, and that the governor ordered his own review after learning that some members of his circle might be under scrutiny in the criminal inquiry directed by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara in New York’s Southern District.

The governor’s office did not identify the individuals, but the New York Daily News, citing an anonymous source, said they may include adviser Joseph Percoco, who this year took a job with Madison Square Garden Co., and Todd Howe, a Washington-based lobbyist who worked with Cuomo in state and federal government posts and who has done work for LPCiminelli.