Who’s laughing now?

Photo courtesy of SUNY Colleges of Nanoscale Science and Engineering


As a lifelong SUNY professor, I have taken a particular interest in Dr. Alain Kaloyeros. Though most people have probably never heard of him, this guy is one of the most talented people to ever work for the State University of New York. He was the lynchpin of Andrew Cuomo’s plan to rejuvenate upstate New York and boy, was he ever good at his job. He led the high-tech phalanx of people who would economically revitalize upstate communities. He brought jobs and people into the Albany area and was touted as a genius.

Personally, I never liked the guy. Perhaps it was because of the enormous salary he earned, making him the very top earner among New York’s state employees. He earned more money than Governor Cuomo or any of the other constitutional officers in New York. He drove expensive foreign cars that knocked your eyes out and was quite the man about town.

He also had the reputation of being untouchable. He was the favorite of one governor after another. When I suggested to my colleagues, “The bigger they are, the harder they fall,” I was pooh-poohed and warned that I was asking for more trouble than I could handle. They meant it. However, my intuition was always that this guy was too big to fail, like the great banks in New York who got away scot-free from all their excesses that led to the 2008 meltdown.

Then the great Preet Bharara, the biggest fed since Elliot Ness, cast his net wide. Charges were brought against two of Andrew Cuomo’s closest associates and, among others, Alain Kaloyeros. Not only did Bharara bring charges, but in a highly unusual move, so did State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. The charges suggest that Kaloyeros was involved in bid-rigging which favored certain contractors over others.

Why would a man who seemingly has it all put his life and freedom at risk? Whenever I explore this question, I come up with a single word: “arrogance.” When governors kiss your feet and when you are too big to fail, you begin to believe your own press notices and apparently, that’s exactly what Kaloyeros did. I know it’s not right but when the mighty fall, I always feel sorry for them. Some get into money troubles; they overextend themselves; they need college tuition for their kids. In some cases, however, they get drunk with power. It isn’t as if they don’t know the rules. We have a bidding process in place so that everyone has an equal chance to get awarded the building contracts.

As for Kaloyeros, we all read or heard about his threats of retribution against those who were kicking him when he was down. He prudently resigned from his administrative positions which paid him great sums of money but recently announced that he would maintain his tenured professorship that paid him — get this — an annual salary (according to the Albany Times Union) of $801,700. Trust me, when I was a professor at SUNY I still had to take second jobs to get by.

This is all very troubling. Kaloyeros is a genius. He may be arrogant but he was bringing home the bacon. He has seriously embarrassed his bosses at the State University who now have to decide whether to let him earn his huge salary as a faculty member at SUNY Poly. Somehow, through high-level sleight of hand, State Comptroller Tom Dinapoli was deprived of getting the whole picture of what was going on through his auditing function for all state agencies. As the old song goes, “Who’s laughing now?”