Assemblyman David Gantt and lobbyist Robert Scott Gaddy were the targets of the federal corruption investigation that resulted in the arrest this week of Assemblyman Joe Errigo on bribery charges.
The investigatory scheme involved creating a scenario in which it would appear that money was being offered for the creation of legislation involving the Whole Foods grocery store development on Monroe Avenue in Brighton.
The Whole Foods development was irrelevant to the investigation, it merely was an item from current events used by special agents of the FBI to try to get close to Gaddy and Gantt.
Gantt is a longtime Rochester assemblyman and Gaddy is one of his protégés, a man who has used his almost-familial relationship to Gantt to build a network of connections throughout Rochester’s governmental and political community.
The goal of the investigation was to get Gantt to take money for introducing a bogus bill in the Assembly Transportation Committee, of which he is the longtime chair. To that end, a man identified by various people in the legal and political community as Joe Rittler – a former Democratic staffer in the Monroe County Legislature – came to Gaddy representing himself as an emissary from activists opposed to the Whole Foods project.
Whatever the motive for Rittler’s actions, he does not seem to actually represent anyone on either side of the Whole Foods matter. The activist group Save Monroe Ave, to be specific, had nothing whatsoever to do with this matter.
Rittler gave Gaddy the legislation federal agents wanted Gantt to introduce, and offered money.
Subsequently, it was communicated to federal officials that Gaddy suggested that the actual legislation be introduced by Joe Errigo – because he is Republican, and to take attention away from Gantt – but that Gantt would make sure it got through the Transportation Committee.
The FBI alleges that the person with money – who others have identified as Rittler – gave the money to Errigo, who had agreed to the criminal arrangement.
The bill was introduced in committee, but it died there.
And now Joe Errigo is under arrest – as he should be.
Whether others will be arrested remains to be seen. The fact that David Gantt was not arrested seems to indicate that the FBI doesn’t have anything to charge him with. There is no indication that Gantt himself ever dealt with Rittler. That means that either Gaddy was used by Gantt as an insulating layer from the illegal conduct, or Gaddy was running a scam in which he was using Gantt’s good name and claiming influence that he didn’t have. Meaning, that Gaddy may have been lying when he said Gantt was on board.
That argument may be bolstered by the fact that Gantt’s committee rejected the FBI bill that Errigo introduced.
So, what should we think about all this?
First, it’s great that the FBI is looking into the corruption that taints Rochester politics. It’s even better that the United States attorney for the Western District of New York is bringing charges. Truth be told, the FBI has looked into Rochester politicians and political operatives for years – but the attorney’s office in Buffalo has consistently refused to prosecute.
That seems to have changed.
It’s also likely that this is about more than an addled junior assemblyman from the sticks. Gaddy and Gantt have their fingers in a lot of pretty big pies, and this investigation may have been more than a simple bribery fishing trip.
It might be interesting, for example, to note that the FBI special agent quoted in a Gary Craig “Democrat and Chronicle” story today about the massive and troubled Rochester school modernization project is the same FBI special agent associated with the Joe Errigo investigation.
The feds are doing their job, and if there is dirt, they are going to find it.
And this arrest of Joe Errigo may be just the tip of that iceberg.