Posted at: 08/22/2013 7:38 PM
By: Associated Press
New York Lt. Gov. Robert Duffy recently purchased a lakefront home in the Finger Lakes for $35,500 less than the assessed value of the home from the head of a business lobbying group.
Duffy purchased the home for $527,000 from a seller who is also on Gov. Andrew Cuomo's regional economic development council, which is headed by Duffy. The Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council helps decide how to spend millions of state funds to boost businesses.
"This property's purchase is a matter of public record, its final price was based upon comparable sales in the immediate area and executed by our respective attorneys," Duffy said.
The spring sale of the 2,360-square foot home on Keuka Lake was reported Thursday by the Albany Times Union. The seller was Sandy Parker, head of the Rochester Business Alliance, who built the three-bedroom, two-story house in 2009, the newspaper reported.
The local government assessment of the property had been $562,500. That's $35,500 less than Duffy and his wife said they paid.
But Duffy insists the house sold for just $1,760 under the assessment because the deal was worked out by lawyers, avoiding the 6-percent real estate agents' fee which he said would have added to the price.
Town assessments, however, don't factor in potential real estate agent fees.
Dick Dadey of the good-government group Citizens Union said 2001 disclosure laws are good, but Duffy's case shows strengthening may be required.
"Such transactions between an entity that lobbies the state and a public official should receive robust disclosure," Dadey said, noting nothing precludes Duffy from disclosing more than minimally required by law. "The lieutenant governor is entitled to a level of privacy, but it does change things when it involves a lobbing entity."
There appears to be no requirement for the deal to be made public under state ethics and lobbying laws. Lobbying rules require lobbyists and their clients to disclose business relationships with state officials but Duffy will have to report the deal in his ethics disclosure statements next year unless he declares the lake house to be his primary residence, which is exempt from disclosure forms.
A Cuomo spokesman says Duffy, who lives in an apartment near Albany part of the year, will continue to claim a third home, in Rochester, as his primary residence.
Duffy is paid $151,500 a year as Cuomo's lieutenant governor and collects $70,248 a year in state pension checks for his years as a Rochester police officer and police chief. He was Rochester's mayor when Cuomo chose him as a running mate in 2010. His wife is a human resources consultant for a Rochester charter school.
Duffy dismissed questions that he may not seek re-election on Cuomo's ticket next year: "The governor and I have the same plans. We plan to seek re-election and will formally announce it at the appropriate time."