From Gannett Albany Bureau Chief Joseph Spector:
Sen. Thomas Libous, R-Binghamton, on Thursday denied he has a personal stake in whether New York moves forward with hydraulic fracturing after a report linked him to a developer who has drilling lease deals.
Libous, speaking on WNBF-AM in Binghamton, said neither he nor his wife have a financial stake in a company run by Luciano Piccirilli, a Libous friend and campaign donor who owns property in central New York.
“I stand to gain nothing personally from fracking. And I mean that,” Libous, an ardent support of hydrofracking in the Southern Tier.
Libous’ lakeside house in Sanford, Broome County, may also be the target of the FBI. Raymond Rolston, a retired contractor who handled the paving work at Libous’ house, said Thursday he was interviewed in March by the FBI about the job.
Rolston said he believes others in the area have been interviewed. He said the FBI interviewed at his ice cream shop in Binghamton.
“It was something about political corruption,” Rolston said Thursday in a telephone interview with Gannett’s Albany Bureau.
In the radio interview, Libous said he was unaware of any FBI probe and has not been contacted by investigators.
Bloomberg News on Thursday first reported that Rolston was contacted by the FBI. Piccirilli was the general contractor for Libous’ Sanford home, it reported. Piccirilli also owns 230 acres near Oneonta, and his company, Da Vinci II LLC, was formed by Frances Libous in 2005, Bloomberg reported.
Libous said he and his wife have no stake in the company — DaVinci II LLC — and they sold off their interest when the company started to look into gas leasing around 2008. But Libous’ most recent financial disclosure form, which was filed in May 2012, lists himself and his wife as partners in “DaVinci II Real Estate.”
In the radio interview, Libous said he would not release documentation about this sale of his interest, saying “”It’s my personal business.”
Libous charged that the fervor around his business dealings is coming from groups opposed to hydrofracking.
“The anti-frackers have been coming after me for a long time,” Libous said.
UPDATE: Save the Southern Tier, a group opposed to fracking, said Libous should “stop speaking for the oil and gas industry and instead think about his constituents.”
“Senator Libous needs to stop trying to play ‘hide the ball’ by slandering people opposed to fracking and instead immediately come clean about his relationship with Da Vinci II LLC and the fracking industry,” Sue Rapp, a member of the group, said in a statement.
Libous last year was apparently under investigation by the state Joint Commission on Public Ethics for allegedly using his influence to get his son a job at a politically connected law firm in Westchester County.
Asked about the status of that probe, Libous said he was unaware where it stood.
Here’s Libous’ disclosure form for 2011-12. A new round of disclosure forms are set to be made public next month.
(Photo by Bill Moyer/Press & Sun-Bulletin)